BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Secretary of State George Shultz, angered by a Yugoslavian official who tried to distinguish Palestinian violence from terrorism, pounded a table Tuesday and declared red-faced, 'It's wrong!'
The outburst from the normally mild-mannered Shultz came during a joint news conference by Shultz and Foreign Minister Raif Dizdarevic. It followed a full day of meetings between Shultz and top officials in Yugoslavia, a non-aligned communist state.
Shultz and Dizdarevic agreed on the need to fight international terrorism and to condemn the Oct. 7-9 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian gunmen.
But Shultz became visibly angered by a statement from Dizdarevic that terrorism can be ended through the 'elimination of causes of terrorism.'
Dizdarevic said his government 'clearly distinquishes between the struggle against colonialism, against agression, against racism on the one hand and terrorism on the other hand.'
The Yugoslav official called the Palestine Liberation Organization a 'liberation organization and the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.'
'The policy of the PLO is not terrorism,' Dizdarevic said. 'Individual acts of Palestinians should not be confused with the policy of the PLO.'
Turning red with anger, Shultz shot back, 'Hijacking the Italian ship, murdering an American, torturing and holding a whole bunch of other Americans is not justified by any cause that I know of.
'There's no connection with any cause,' Shultz said, his voice rising.
'It's wrong!' Shultz said, pounding his fist against the table he shared with Dizdarevic.
'The international community must step up to this problem and deal with it, unequivocally, firmly, definitively. There must be no place to hide for people who do that kind of thing,' Shultz said.
Regaining his composure, Shultz turned to his counterpart, tapped his shoulder and added, 'And you probably feel the same way.'
Shultz was referring in his remarks to the Achille Lauro, hijacked Oct. 7 by four Palestinians while on a Mediterranean cruise. The hijackers killed Leon Klinghoffer, 69, of New York and cast his body into the sea off the Syrian coast.
The hijackers surrendered Oct. 9 to Egyptian authorities but were captured after U.S. warplanes forced down an Egpytian airliner carrying them out of Egypt for an unknown destination.
Mohammed Abbas, leader of a Palestine Liberation Front -- a PLO faction -- and accused by the Reagan administration of masterminding the hijacking, was also aboard the plane.
While Italy arrested the four hijackers after the plane was forced down on Sicily, Abbas was allowed to flee to Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav and Italian governments ignored a U.S. request to detain him. He is believed to be in Iraq.
Shultz, at the news conference, reaffirmed his view that the PLO, with which Yugoslavia has diplomatic relations as part of its non-aligned foreign policy, has 'terrorist connections.'
A senior State Department official said the emotional nature of the news conference was not reflected in Shultz's round of private meetings with Yugoslavian leaders, although both sides recited their positions on terrorism and the Abbas case.
Shultz told reporters he had expressed 'the great concern we have about this problem.' Shultz said he had expressed his disappointment that Abbas was 'allowed to pass through Yugoslavia.'