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'Andreotti a friend of Palestine' says Mahmoud Abbas adviser

Brought Arafat to Italy, highlighted plight of refugees

06 May, 19:53
'Andreotti a friend of Palestine' says Mahmoud Abbas adviser (ANSA) - Ramallah, May 6 - The late Giulio Andreotti was a longtime friend of the Palestinians and a consummate diplomat who brokered crucial, previously unthinkable meetings, a top adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told ANSA on Monday.

"Italy has lost one of the greatest European politicians since World War II," said Nemer Hammad, who served as Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegate in Rome for 30 years.

"Andreotti was the undisputed architect" of the first Mediterranean Arab-European summit in Rome, said Hammad, adding that he was responsible for late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's first visit to Italy in 1982, bringing about a meeting between Arafat and then pope John Paul II. To highlight the plight of Palestinian refugees, Andreotti in 1979 convinced the UN World Food Program, which is headquartered in Rome, to buy Palestinian olive oil for humanitarian purposes. "This caused a remarkable change in world public opinion towards Palestine," said Hammad, adding his own personal anecdote about the late Christian Democrat (DC) leader.

"He used to get up at the crack of dawn, so he thought it natural to call 7am meetings. When I asked if we could push them to a more reasonable time, he merely said without batting an eyelash: 'Shall we say 7.30am?'". Abbas will personally make his condolences to the Italian government, and might send representatives to Andreotti's funeral, Hammad added.

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