Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat says he does not believe there will be a gulf war and reiterated his call for an international conference to discuss all Middle East problems.

"I cannot imagine that there exists a new Nero capable of plunging the world into war and destruction. No one would dare," Arafat told the Paris daily Le Figaro Wednesday, referring to the Roman emperor who plunged his kingdom into chaos.But he admitted that there are "signs that bring us closer to war, particularly President Bush's insistent refusal of all negotiations and dialogue."

Arafat said that the only way to resolve the present crisis is by holding an international conference on the Middle East as soon as possible.

The PLO chairman praised what he said were the efforts by the French and German governments to find a peaceful solution to the problem, but he was sharply critical of Israel's alleged role in the crisis.

"Israel maintains a low profile before the battle," he said. "But when the battle breaks out it will take the leading role."