PLO's Arafat: what he wants is embassy in US
Even as his Soviet allies are granting him a full-fledged embassy here, Yasser Arafat has suggested he views the US as the prime target in his bid for international recognition.
In a pre-dawn interview Oct. 21 at a sumptuous Soviet guest house, the Palestine Liberation Organization chief also said he was taking a ''wait and see'' attitude toward the new regime in Egypt. He took a relatively soft line toward one of Egypt's few Arab allies, Sudan, saying that, if invited, he would mediate in the dispute between Sudan and Libya.
But he said he was not about to abandon opposition to the US-sponsored Palestinian autonomy talks, which were due to resume in Israel hours after he spoke to the Monitor. And when asked whether he was ready to extend some form of recognition of Israel's right to exist - the current US condition for opening direct talks with him - the PLO leader rebounded:
''You (Americans) are always looking from this very narrow Israeli angle. Before asking me this question, you have to ask me about our (own) rights to a Palestinian state.''
Politically, Mr. Arafat has always possessed the cautious political instincts of the guerrilla chieftain he is. But in the Monitor interview, and throughout his Moscow visit, he seemed particularly intent on keeping his diplomatic options open. One reason for this, diplomats here suggest, may be the heightened uncertainty in the Mideast after the Oct. 6 assassination of Anwar Sadat.
The PLO leader made it clear that one option he would especially like to keep open is eventual entente with the Americans, no doubt because the US is the major foreign patron of his archenemy, Israel.
Soviet suspicions on this count are seen as one explanation of the Kremlin's announcement Oct. 20 that it was according full diplomatic status to the PLO office here.
Speaking to this reporter after a reception for the Arab diplomatic corps at his soon-to-be Moscow embassy, Mr. Arafat called the upgrading of the PLO mission ''very important.''
Asked why it was important, he said, ''It is not a routine decision. It is a political decision . . . and a very important signal for all over the world.''
He said he entertained little hope in the short run that the signal would be properly decoded in Washington. The US, he said, still ''insists on neglecting completely the rights of the Palestinians.'' He added that sophisticated American weaponry was being used by Israelis to kill ''our people.'' He charged that statements by US national security adviser Richard Allen served to encourage ''Israeli aggression.''
Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, by contrast, was called a ''dear friend of the Palestinians.''
But at the same time, Mr. Arafat, in military garb and his traditional Arab headdress, left little doubt that he is actively looking for dear friends across the Atlantic.
He termed ''important'' recent statements by former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford suggesting contacts with the PLO. He welcomed, too, a similar statement by former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, not too long ago a favorite target for public PLO broadsides on US policy.
Mr. Arafat argued that the former officials' statements - although ''too late ,'' he added with a smile - showed a shift in US public opinion, a process he said he wanted to encourage. He indicated that one aim of expanding PLO contacts with Western Europe and Japan was to prod the Americans in the same direction. US allies, he said, ''can play this role. . . . But I am sorry to say that they are not.''
Mr. Arafat said he felt confident that US taxpayers would ultimately begin to ask why they were paying for arms used against the Palestinians. ''And I hope this will be in the very near future.''
Asked what one message he would like to send Ronald Reagan, the PLO leader replied:
''I hope that he will be able to have time to read the statements of Mr. Carter and Mr. Ford amd Mr. Brzezinski.''