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Jews assail Arafat after broadcast

Israeli and French Jews on Wednesday denounced Yasser Arafat as an anti-Semite after the broadcast of a purportedly tape-recorded conversation in which the PLO chairman called Jews "dirt."

The PLO's envoy in Paris, Ibrahim Souss, who supposedly talked to Arafat during the phone call, denied the conversation ever took place.

Yitzhak Eldan, Israel's charge d'affaire in Paris, said the comments broadcast Tuesday by Cable News Network illustrated the "double language" of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israelis contend PLO leaders are conciliatory in public but anti-Jewish in private. PLO officials have been barred from the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace talks at the insistence of Israel, which contends Arafat is not sincere about dropping the PLO's goal of destroying the Jewish state.

Souss claimed the tape was phony and intended to district attention from what he called Israel's "bellicose" attitude during the Middle East peace talks. "I categorically deny the comments attributed to President Yasser Arafat and myself," he said.

The PLO's headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, declined to comment.

CNN said it obtained the tape from a Western police agency. It said journalists and Arab specialists familiar with Arafat said the voice on the tape is his.

A voice identification expert told CNN it probably was Arafat's voice but there wasn't enough taped material to make an identification that would meet legal standards in court.

Jean Kahn, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Organizations in France, said the remarks made scapegoats of Jews for the scandal over Palestinian leader George Habash being allowed into France for hospital treatment last month.

The conversation purportedly took place Jan. 30, during Habash's brief stay at a Paris hospital for a reported stroke.

According to CNN's English translation of the Arabic conversation, Arafat called the reaction to Habash's treatment "shameful." Souss blamed it on the right-wing opposition and Jews.

Arafat allegedly said: "The Jews at work! Damn their fathers! Dogs! Filthy! Dirt! All this for one sick man! I took care of and treated their ill and sick (POWs). But trash is always trash."