PLO Leader Still Demands Key Guarantees From US Prior to Mideast Peace Conference
PALESTINE Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat left Jordan quietly yesterday, sticking to his demands for guarantees from Washington ahead of a proposed Middle East conference between Israel and the Arabs.A well-placed Jordanian source said that Arafat, who has been sidelined in the US-brokered peace efforts, was maintaining his tough line on the conference and wanted pledges from the United States that Washington would be unlikely to provide. "They [Arafat and the PLO] are taking their time to see what they can get," a senior Jordanian official says. The PLO wants the right to name delegates to any conference. Israel says it will not deal with the umbrella organization, which it regards as terrorist. Arafat made no public statement after several hours of talks with King Hussein. But PLO spokesman Yasser Abed-Rabbo told the Arabic daily newspaper ad-Dustour that the PLO still wanted Washington to guarantee: * A total Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including East Jerusalem. * A halt in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Mr. Abed-Rabbo said the PLO also wanted promises from Arab countries not to normalize relations with the Jewish state until Israel withdraws from all Arab lands and the Palestinians have won their legitimate rights. "The PLO cannot accept the current formula for the conference," Abed-Rabbo said. "It only offers us approval for the continuation of occupation and gives a cover for settlement. If negotiations continue for several years during which settlement also continues, we will find at the end of the political process that there is nothing we can negotiate on." The visit to Jordan was the PLO chairman's first visit since Jordan said in July it would attend a US-Soviet-sponsored conference and offered to form a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The PLO is unlikely to win guarantees from Washington, which agrees that Israel should comply with UN resolutions calling for withdrawal from occupied territories but says it cannot ensure the outcome of the talks. Arafat's support for Iraq during the Gulf War alienated several of his former backers, including his group's major financiers Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have endorsed the conference.