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PALESTINIANS TO SHUN U.S. OFFICIALS

Prominent Palestinians declared a boycott of all contacts with U.S. officials and harshly condemned the United States Friday for vetoing a U.N. mission to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

More than 35 Palestinians ended a 13-day hunger strike to demand U.N. observers in the occupied territories, charging their cause had been undermined by the United States.On Thursday, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council proposal to send a three-member team to the territories to devise measures to protect the Palestinian population. The 14 other council members voted in favor the resolution put forward by Arab states.

"What the United States did yesterday in the Security Council, it was a shock, a slap to all those people who believe in peace in this area," said Faisal Husseini, the prominent pro-PLO activist in the territories.

Israel reacted favorably to the U.S. action. Foreign Minister Moshe Arens in an interview with Israel Radio criticized the Western European nations for taking a position contrary to Israel's.

"Nevertheless, I think we can all be pleased that at the U.N. Security Council, the United States vetoed the resolution that was presented," he said.

Husseini told a crowded news conference in an East Jerusalem hotel that the U.S. action had put another obstacle in the way of the peace process.

"Instead of helping the people here under occupation, to protect the people here under occupation, they simply stopped the whole peace process," he said.

U.N. diplomats said the U.S. veto reflected a toughening of the American position following the foiled attempt by Palestinian guerrillas to attack the Israeli coast Wednesday.

In a statement read at the news conference, the Palestinian activists announced they were severing contacts with U.S. officials.

"We declare our boycott, our refusal to conduct any official contacts with the American consulate, with any American representative and emissary, and our refusal to accept any invitations from the American consul," it said.

Meanwhile, sources close to the PLO said Friday that the United States officially asked the PLO to denounce the guerrilla raid and to expel factional leader Mohammed Abu Abbas.

The demand was made in a written note that U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Robert Pelletreau delivered to PLO representative Hakam Balaoui in Tunis Thursday evening, said the sources.

Observers in Tunis said the PLO response, which could determine the future of U.S.-Palestinian contacts under way since 1988, was not likely for several days.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat denied Thursday any relationship between his Fatah faction of the PLO and Abbas' Palestinian Liberation Front, which claimed responsibility for the failed May 30 guerrilla raid.

Israeli forces killed four Palestinian guerrillas and captured 12 of a group that attempted to attack Israeli beaches in six speedboats Wednesday, Israeli officials said.