Palestinians Trumpet PLO to Baker With AM-Baker-Mideast, Bjt
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Palestinian leaders told Secretary of State James A. Baker III Friday only the PLO could decide whether Palestinians will take part in Mideast peace talks. The PLO was said to have offered the names of possible delegates to King Hussein of Jordan.
″Our primary objective is not to make everybody happy,″ Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi said after a four-hour meeting with Baker. ″Our primary objective is to save our Palestinian national rights.″
At Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, an adviser to chairman Yasser Arafat said the PLO awaits a U.S. invitation to the peace conference despite Israel’s attempts to exclude it.
″The Palestinians are a major part of the conflict and must be a major part of any settlement,″ said Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat’s political counselor.
Israel said Thursday it would join U.S.-Soviet-sponsored peace talks, provided disputes over Palestinian negotiators can be settled. Israel refuses to accept delegates from east Jerusalem and from outside the occupied territories or allow any role for the PLO, which it brands as terrorist.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has said the Americans accepted the Israeli conditions. Ms. Ashrawi and fellow pro-PLO activist Faisal Husseini asked Baker to clarify the U.S. position. They said the PLO would have to name any Palestinian delegation.
Sources close to the PLO told The Associated Press the organization has given King Hussein of Jordan a list of possible representatives - its side of a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to the talks.
The sources spoke to Nicosia, Cyprus, by telephone from Tunis on condition of anonymity. They said it was up to the king to accept the names and pass them on to Baker.
″King Hussein now has a key role in settling the problem over Palestinian representation,″ said one source.
He named two of those proposed as Adnan Abu Odeh, a Jordanian born in a Jerusalem and now an adviser to Hussein, and Hazem Nuseibah, also born in Jerusalem and a former foreign minister in the Jordanian government.
Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said when reached in Tunis that his organization was not proposing names for Hussein to select. He said, however, that the PLO was coordinating its decisions with Jordan.
The Palestinians who met Baker on Friday said the secretary had suggested to them he wouldn’t pressure the Israelis to make concessions.
While Israel does not want any Palestinians from Jerusalem to participate in the talks, the United States has suggested that Palestinians from Jerusalem who no longer live in the occupied city might be acceptable.
Many Palestinians said they feared they would be overlooked in any peace talks.
″People here are frustrated with the way things are going. They see the mill grinding, but they don’t see the flour,″ said Mohammed Khalil, 29, a bus driver from the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.
″I think the Palestinians are discovering these days that the new American policy in the Middle East after the Gulf War is another conspiracy against the Palestinians,″ said Issam Kamel, a wholesale merchant from Bethlehem.
Othman Hallak, a newspaper publisher in Jerusalem, said he feared the Palestinian issue will be pushed aside, as it was during the U.S.-brokered Camp David talks between Egypt and Israel.
″I’m not optimistic. These moves by Baker will bring Israel and the Arab countries together, and the Palestinian issue will be shelved,″ said Hallak, who owns the pro-Jordanian An-Nahar daily.
Hard-liners urged Palestinians to boycott Middle East peace efforts, saying it was a farce that would lead nowhere.
″According to the Americans, the Palestinians have no choice. But I believe the Palestinians who met with Baker should stop talking now because they will gain nothing,″ said Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, a supporter of the Moslem fundamentalist group Hamas.