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Israel set to allow contacts with the PLO

JERUSALEM - A new law allowing contacts between Israelis and the Palestine Liberation Organisation was introduced yesterday in the Israeli parliament in what may be the most significant political move by Israel's Labour government since it came to power in June, writes Sarah Helm.

The law, which, if agreed in the Knesset, will end a six-year ban on contacts with the PLO, is expected to bring new meetings between PLO officials in Tunis, and Israeli MPs, organisations and journalists. Introducing the bill yesterday, the Justice Minister, David Liba'i, insisted that it did not denote a change in Israeli goverment policy towards the PLO. The Israeli government refuses direct contacts with the PLO and refuses to negotiate with the organisation.

Israel remains firmly opposed to any change in US policy, which bans high-level contacts with the PLO and supports Israel's position that the PLO should not be an official party to the peace talks.