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PLO Accuses U.S. of a Double Standard

From Associated Press

PLO officials Sunday accused Washington of maintaining a double standard in its Middle East policy and pledged to keep up attacks on Israeli military targets, even though the PLO has renounced terrorism.

"(President) Reagan may stop his government’s dialogue with the PLO now if he thinks he will be able to stop our attacks against Israeli military targets,” said Salah Khalaf, second in command to Yasser Arafat in Fatah, the largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“Arafat’s denunciation of terrorism in Geneva did not include military attacks against Israel,” said Khalaf, also known as Abu Iyad. He spoke at a rally and a news conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Our struggle will continue until we raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem,” he said.

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Arafat spoke last week to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva, where the body’s session relocated after Washington refused to grant him a visa to visit U.N. headquarters in New York.

On Sunday, Arafat met in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss how to keep momentum gained by the first official U.S.-PLO dialogue, which began last week.

Both Arafat and Mubarak told reporters that an international peace conference could lead to direct talks between Israel and the PLO.

“Israel and the United States should not fear the convening of the international peace conference, because it will definitely lead to direct negotiations,” Mubarak said.

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Arafat added: “Do you think we are going to the conference to talk to ourselves? No, we are going to negotiate with our enemies.”

In Tunis, Tunisia, Khaled Hassan, a senior adviser to Arafat, said he hopes President-elect George Bush will formulate a clear policy that will lead to an international peace conference on the Middle East.

‘Thinking and Talking’

“I don’t understand the policy of the U.S. government. Unfortunately, they adopt a double standard of thinking and talking,” said Hassan, a co-founder of Fatah.

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“The U.S. government needs a lot of work to prove its credibility. I hope Bush will do that,” Hassan said in an interview two days after Friday’s U.S.-PLO talks in Tunis.

Hassan said the PLO rejects the idea of the United States as a sole mediator in talks because “the Americans . . . took sides already.”

He stressed there can be no Middle East peace settlement without Soviet involvement and he said Washington and Moscow must agree on the international conference.

The United States last week reversed a 13-year ban on official contacts with the PLO after Arafat renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist and accepted U.N. resolutions guaranteeing safe borders for countries in the region.

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Washington has refused to recognize an independent Palestinian state the PLO proclaimed in Algiers last month.

Talks Wait on Bush

The next U.S.-PLO meeting is expected after the Bush Administration takes office Jan. 20.

Arafat told reporters in Tunis Saturday that the PLO’s main priority is the early convening of an international peace conference on the Middle East.

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Israel has refused to include the PLO, which it regards as a terror group, as a partner in peace talks and has demanded direct talks with non-PLO Palestinians.

In Tel Aviv, nearly 200 members of Israel’s left-of-center Labor Party called on the party to accept the PLO as a partner for peace talks, Israel Radio said.

“There is a need to talk to Palestinians and the PLO, which has changed from a terrorist organization to a political organization,” Labor legislator Chaim Ramon said.

In Jerusalem, Labor ministers at a weekly Cabinet session put forward a 10-year-old proposal to grant autonomy to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

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