Arafat: Will Stay out of Negotiations, Promises to Abide by Decisions With AM-Mideast Rdp, Bjt
NEW YORK (AP) _ PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat said Friday that the Palestinian delegation to the Mideast talks would negotiate without his help, and he promised to abide by the conference’s outcome.
″Anything these Palestinian leaders in this conference will accept, I will accept,″ he said in a television interview.
Arafat appeared on a large television screen in a studio as he spoke by satellite from Tunis, Tunisia, to interviewers Phil Donahue and Vladimir Pozner, a former Soviet government spokesman. Several callers posed questions, but Arafat appeared to have difficulty hearing much of what was said in the studio.
The Palestinians are going to the conference in a joint delegation with Jordan, and will be advised by a 14-member committee. The talks are scheduled to start Wednesday in Madrid, Spain.
A major issue of conflict in convening the talks was the background of Palestinian negotiators. Israel ruled out any from outside the territories it has occupied or anyone with strong ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
A sign of the issue’s explosiveness arose Friday, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s spokesman said Israel would consider pulling out of the talks if the delegation included Saeb Erekat, who said in an interview Thursday that his delegation ″was chosen by the PLO.″
In response to a question from Donahue whether the Palestinian delegates represented the PLO, Arafat said yes, but only because ″any Palestinian represents the PLO.″
″They have declared many times because they are Palestinians, they are leaders in our occupied territories - they will represent the PLO,″ he said.
He said that principle was part of the PLO’s charter. Most Palestinians accept the PLO as their sole legitimate representative.
Arafat’s response showed how he was seeking to maintain a PLO profile in the talks yet not provoke the Israelis enough for them to back out.
Earlier, Donahue asked the PLO chairman if he would communicate with the delegation during the talks.
″They are not in need of me now,″ Arafat said. ″They have all the probabilities and capabilities and everything.″
In explaining why the Palestinians chose to attend the conference, Arafat said it was to avoid a split in the peace process and not to give Israel any excuse for avoiding negotiations.
Arafat was asked if he was optimistic. He said the talks would not be easy. ″We are in need of more efforts to achieve real peace, but we have to work now for it. ... We may succeed to achieve real peace in this area,″ he said.
The interview for the current events program ″Pozner and Donahue,″ was broadcast live to some parts of the United States.