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Holocaust Museum Director To Quit

February 19, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A month after he refused to invite Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Walter Reich announced Thursday he plans to step down as director.

``I have determined not to seek renewal of my appointment,″ Reich said in a statement to the chairman of the museum’s governing board.

Reich, whose three-year contract would have expired June 7, will stay on through March 31. Sara Bloomfield, associate director for museum programs, will be the acting director, museum officials said in a statement.

Reich clashed with board members last month after he rejected a State Department suggestion to invite Arafat on a tour of the museum. Holocaust officials later reversed course under pressure from the Clinton administration. Arafat ultimately declined the invitation, citing time constraints.

Nathan Lewin, Reich’s attorney, said the incident ``certainly was a major factor″ in his client’s departure but declined to comment further.

In his letter to museum chairman Miles Lerman, Reich wrote: ``As you know, we have differed on the use of the museum and of the memory of the Holocaust, in the context of political or diplomatic circumstances or negotiations. In addition, I have favored an improved governance relationship and informational flow between the council chair and the museum director.″

The Washington Post, quoting unidentified sources, reported in its Thursday edition that Reich’s departure has been under negotiation for the past month.

``The minute Reich refused to greet Arafat, he was finished,″ a senior museum official told the Post.

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