Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader, Yasser Arafat, the first prominent visitor to Iran since the revolution, compared the struggles of the Palestinian and Iranian peoples in a speech on Monday (19 February) “We will continue our efforts until the time we defeat “Zionism and Imperialism”, he said. His speech came as he officially took over the former Israeli diplomatic mission on Teheran, proclaiming it the Iranian office of the PLO. During the three days of his visit, the PLO leader had talks with the father of the revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Iranian Prime Minister, Dr. Mehdi Bazargan.
Mr. Arafat and his fifty-nine strong party arrived in the Iranian capital on Saturday (17 February). The PLO leader was among the first in the Arab world to rejoice at the triumph of the Ayatollah and his followers. The PLO has close links with the Ayatollah and helped train many of the guerrillas which battled against the Shah’s forces before the revolution gathered momentum. Reports from Beirut suggest that during an evening meeting the Ayatollah offered help to the PLO leader, when the new regime had overcome the legacy of the Shah. On the following day (18 February) Mr. Arafat met Iranian Premier, Dr. Mehdi Bazargan, and attended a meeting of the thirteen strong cabinet. Prime Minister Bazargan still faces a number of problems as he gets down to the t ask of governing a country crippled by months of political violence and economic chaos. A further headache comes with the fact that former Premier Shapur Bakhtiar, officially reported to have been arrested is free, somewhere in Iran. After his talks with Prime Minister Bazargan, the PLO leader spoke about Iran’s oil resource and reporters at a crowded news conference that the Iranian revolution, “would build a new era in the Middle East”. On Monday (19 February) at the former headquarters of the Israeli diplomatic mission Mr. Arafat received a warm welcome from supporters of the Ayatollah. Iran has expelled all remaining Israeli citizens and severed diplomatic ties with the country. The mission, evacuated by the Israelis before anti-Shah revolutionaries attacked and ransacked the building is to become the PLO headquarters in Iran. Mr. Arafat was attending the inauguration of the PLO offices, accompanied by a close aide of the Ayatollah, deputy Prime Minster Ibrahim Yahdi. The PLO leader told the enthusiastic crowd the successful struggle in Iran augured well for the future of Palestine. He said, “Under the Aytollah’s leadership we will free Palestine”.