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Syrian Foreign Minister Brands Shamir A Terrorist

November 1, 1991

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Syria’s foreign minister held up a 1948 ″wanted poster″ of Yitzhak Shamir at the Mideast peace talks today, accusing the Israeli prime minister of killing a Swedish peacemaker 43 years ago.

Shamir was in those days one of the commanders of the Stern gang, an underground organization that fought the British rulers of Palestine to obtain Jewish independence.

The poster seeks Shamir in connection with the assassination in Jerusalem of Count Folke Bernadotte, a Swedish diplomat mediating the Arab-Jewish dispute.

Although responsibility for the assassination has never been firmly established, Shamir has made no secret of his history as part of the Stern gang and justifies the group’s violence as essential to the struggle for independence that led to the creation of Israel in 1948.

At the peace conference, mutual recriminations between Israel and Syria began Thursday, when Shamir accused Syria of mistreating its Jews and Syria accused Israel of mistreating Palestinians.

It escalated today when Shamir accused Syria of fostering terrorism and being one of the most ″tyrannical regimes″ in the world.

Controversy even surrounded the site of the next stage of the peace conference, bilateral negotiations. Israel insisted they be held in the Middle East, which the Arabs say amounts to offering de facto recognition of the Jewish state. The Arabs, who want the talks held in Madrid, said today they planned to meet to discuss where the one-on-one talks should be held.

Shamir was not in the conference hall today when Syria’s Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa launched his personal attack. Other members of the Israeli delegation smiled in derision when the Syrian made his accusations.

Abandoning the prepared text of his speech, al-Sharaa held up the reproduction of the wanted poster.

″I really had hoped to focus on peace, for which we have come. But before that, I shall just show you a photograph, an old photograph, of Mr. Shamir at the age of 32,″ said al-Sharaa.

″Why was this picture distributed? Because he was wanted. He himself recognized that he was a terrorist, that he practiced terrorism, and that he helped in the assassination of Count Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine, as it was called in 1948,″ he said. ″He killed peace mediators.″

Arab delegates gave al-Sharaa a loud ovation.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, later said al-Sharaa was ″breaking the elementary rule of courtesy″ in launching the personal attack, and that it made him wonder whether Syria ever was committed to peace negotiations.

″We know right now that Syria has not only exploded this proceeding, but Syria now refuses to enter bilateral negotiations,″ Netanyahu said.

Three years ago, two members of the Stern gang, known in Hebrew as Lohamei Herut Israel (LEHI), or fighters for the freedom of Israel, revealed their role in the assassination.

They said Bernadotte was slain because he planned to grant the United Nations control over Jerusalem and hand over key areas to the Arabs.

The two men did not mention Shamir and the prime minister’s aides denied his involvement, contending that LEHI was officially disbanded about four months before the killing.

But ex-LEHI leader Yisrael Scheib-Eldad, asked specifically about Shamir’s involvement, said the group’s commanders approved the killing ″and I don’t remember anyone opposing it.″

He added that Shamir’s aides have denied his involvement ″and I would not think of denying (the) denial.″

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