Apparently at the behest of Moscow, the French Communist Party today created a major complication for the Palestine Liberation Organization's drive for respectability in the West.
The French Communists said in the newspaper L'Humanite that a party delegation that just returned from Beirut had agreed with PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the time and place for a meeting between him and French Communist leader Georges Marchais, presumably in France.
A PLO spokesman here insisted that no time or place had been set, that the agreement to meet was only in principle and that a meeting would not necessarily be in France.
The PLO had been insisting that Arafat wants to come to Paris only at the invitation of French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
For the PLO, France is the key to broader acceptance by the nine members of the European Economic Community. Arafat has been acting as if a good relationship with Western Europe is the wedge he needs to force the United States to recognize the PLO as a negotiating partner for Middle East peace.
But some observers of Middle East diplomacy say that the Soviets have been showing increasing anxiety over Arafat's recent successes at making friends in the West. The Soviets seem to fear, these observers say, that they will lose their hold on Arafat if he gains too many Western allies. If Arafat could cloak himself in the mantle of France's prestige, few other European countries would be likely to resist him.
The PLO leader is scheduled to visit Turkey Oct. 5 at the invitation of Premier Bulent Ecevit. It will be Arafat's first visit to a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. He recently visited Spain, however, and, during the summer, he met in Vienna with Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and West German former chancellor Willy Brandt.
The French Communist move appears to be designed to undercut the effective pressure Arafat had been applying on Giscard to be received in Paris. The French Foreign Ministry spokesman said it would be "very maladroit of Mr. Arafat to think that he could use (the French Communist invitation) to be received by French leaders."