Arafat continues charm offensive in Washington PLO chief sends warning to Iran

September 15, 1993|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat continued his U.S. charm offensive yesterday, seeking economic support from Congress, calling on Jerusalem to speed up implementation of the new Israeli-PLO peace accord, and warning Iran not to interfere.

Warmly welcomed throughout the capital, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization went to Congress and spoke at the National Press Club, seeking to reinforce his conversion from accused terrorist to committed peacemaker. Later, he flew to New York for a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

"My enemy is the enemy of peace," Mr. Arafat said.

He quoted congressional leaders as promising "to do their best" to help the economic development of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, the areas designated for Palestinian self-rule under the peace accord.

A million Palestinians are going hungry in Gaza and Jericho, Mr. Arafat said.

"The infrastructure has been completely destroyed. We are beginning from zero, from below zero, actually," he said, adding that he looked to the United States "at least" for loan guarantees. He also hopes for major economic aid from the oil-rich Persian Gulf states.

After breakfast with Mr. Arafat, Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell of Maine said that he had ordered a review of all anti-PLO legislation to clear the way for "the best and most appropriate way" of helping the peace process.

Removal of provisions against the PLO as a terrorist organization could open the way for U.S. aid to the Palestinians and would allow PLO officials to visit the United States without special waivers.

At a press club luncheon, Mr. Arafat was asked what he meant by the prediction that the Palestinian flag would fly over the contested city of Jerusalem. He replied that he would seek implementation of the United Nations resolutions calling for the return of all Arab territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

Reminded that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had said "forget it" to that notion, he said: "I have to respect what he is saying, and I hope he will respect what I am saying.

"Look, we know there is a problem. We are not going to put our heads in the sand. . . . If there is a will, there is a way. We can find, through negotiation, a solution to all our problems. . . . Jerusalem is a land of peace for Jews, for Christians, for Muslims."

Asked if he was proposing the internationalization of Jerusalem, he replied: "Ask Rabin if he will accept this internationalization for Jerusalem or not.

"From my point of view, it is on the table. We have to talk to find a final solution."

His goal, he said, was to establish an independent Palestinian state that would exist in a confederation with Jordan. He and King Hussein of Jordan had agreed to form a series of committees to work on the coordination.

Implementation of the agreement with Israel would "defuse" the causes of violence in Jericho and Gaza, but any continuing Palestinian violence would have to be "contained . . . through our democracy."

He said he would ask the Israelis to accelerate implementation of the new agreement, which calls for Israeli military withdrawal from Palestinian areas of Jericho and Gaza within four months, a five-year period of limited self-rule, and negotiations on the final status of the occupied territories after two years.

"It's not enough to be in the papers," said Mr. Arafat. "We have to implement it on the ground. . . . I don't want to return back to to the old history. We are now opening a new phase with open hearts. Let us speak for the future, not for the past."

Responding to Iran's threat to undermine the Israeli-Palestinian accord, Mr. Arafat warned against outside interfence. "We are not ready to import any confusion from any country," he said.

Mr. Arafat also denied he had supported Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's 1990 occupation of Kuwait but said he would continue to pursue friendly relations with all Arab leaders.

"The splits and scars in the Arab unity have to disappear," he said.

Asked when, as a man of peace, he would exchange his military uniform for civilian clothes, he pointed out that he was commander-in-chief of Palestinian forces and added with a laugh: "I am not a chameleon."

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