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RABIN STILL SHUNS DIRECT PLO ROLE IN PEACE TALKS

SHARE RABIN STILL SHUNS DIRECT PLO ROLE IN PEACE TALKS

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's office Friday rebuffed an appeal from PLO leader Yasser Arafat and said it will continue to boycott talks with the organization and refuse it a direct role in peace negotiations.

The statement, quoted by the national Itim news agency, came after Arafat made a dramatic call on Israel television Thursday night for Israelis and Palestinians "to forge a brave peace.""The prime minister's position remains the same, by which the negotiations will be conducted only with the Palestinian peace talks delegation, and the PLO in Tunis is not a party to the negotiations," the statement said.

Arafat was interviewed by telephone from his headquarters in Tunis, appearing with Israeli peace crusader Abie Nathan, who flew to meet Arafat the day after the Israeli Parliament abolished a law banning contacts with the PLO.

The Parliament's repeal Tuesday of a 1986 "anti-terror" amendment meant Israelis could no longer be prosecuted for meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Parliament decision opened the door to contacts between Israel and its arch Middle East rival. But the statement from Rabin's office made clear his government would maintain its diplomatic boycott of the PLO.

Israel has said it refuses to deal with the PLO because the organization engages in terrorism and seeks the destruction of the Jewish state, although the Palestinian group recognized Israel in November 1988.

The boycott has not denied the PLO an indirect role in peace talks. Since October 1992, Israel has been negotiating in U.S.-backed peace talks with Palestinians from the occupied territories who say they represent the PLO.