PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's declaration that his organization's charter is null and void has helped define his position on peace with Israel, President Francois Mitterrand said Wednesday.
Arafat met with Prime Minister Michel Rocard on the second day of his unprecedented official visit to France. Later he held a news conference before attending a dinner of "Franco-Palestinian friendship" hosted by Rocard.Mitterrand said at a Cabinet meeting that Arafat's description of the 25-year-old charter as null and void was "the beginning of the clarification" that he had sought at their meeting Tuesday, government spokesman Louis Le Pensec said.
Arafat made his remark about the charter, which implicitly denies Israel's right to exist, in a television interview beamed to millions of viewers Tuesday night. Israeli leaders responded skeptically to Arafat's statement.
"I have been elected on a program that is founded on the basis of two states," Arafat said in an interview on French TF-1 television several hours after meeting with Mitterrand. "As far as the charter is concerned, there is a French expression, `C'est caduc' (`It is null and void')."
Mitterrand, in apparent response to intense pressure from French-Jewish organizations and hostile statements by the Israeli government, asked Arafat during their 90-minute meeting to change the PLO Charter to fall in line with the organization's recent commitments to regional peace.
Arafat told a group of legislators Wednesday that he had few more concessions left to make. "I only have a fig leaf left. Do I have to complete the striptease?" a Socialist deputy, Jacques Roger-Machart, quoted Arafat saying after their meeting.
The PLO chief, responding to recent Israeli proposals for elections in the occupied territories, which Palestinians have already rejected, told Europe 1 Radio that the "best formula" for voting would be the example of Namibia, where a U.N.-brokered peace plan calls for independence from South Africa and elections.