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PLO to Stress Peace Conference In Dialogue With U.S.

December 25, 1988

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ The PLO will urge the United States to recognize it as the sole representative of the Palestinians and will push for an international peace conference in future U.S.-PLO talks, Palestinian sources said Sunday.

The PLO Executive Committee met for a second day in Baghdad to review issues that included the formation of a provisional Palestinian government and the state of the year-old uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sources close to the discussions said members of the clandestine committee organizing the uprising in the occupied territories are participating in the meetings, but they refused to elaborate.

No official statements are expected until the meeting’s scheduled end late Monday.

A Palestinian spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deliberations Sunday focused on future talks with the United States.

Earlier this month, Washington reversed a 13-year ban on contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Talks were held in Tunis, Tunisia several days later.

The spokesman said the 15-member executive committee reviewed a report from members Yasser Abd-Rabboo and Abdullah Hourani on the talks with the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, Robert H. Pelletreau Jr.

He said the committee instructed the two to continue the talks, stressing ″the priority of pushing further the effort to hold an international conference on the Middle East.″

Sources close to the talks, who also refused to be named, said the PLO will urge the United States to recognize it as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

The committee also broached the topic of forming a provisional government in the occupied territories, the spokesman said, adding that the issue needed further discussion.

Two committee members - Bishop Lia Al-Khouri and Mustafa El-Zibri of the Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - did not attend the meetings in Arafat’s residence in a tightly guarded compound on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Neither absence was officially explained, but El-Zibri has been sharply critical of Arafat’s peace initiative.

There has been growing opposition by radical Palestinian factions and some figures within the PLO to Arafat’s recognition of Israel and renunciation of terrorism, both of which were conditions set by the United States to open a dialogue.

It is not clear to what extent opposition exists within the executive committee to Arafat’s moves.

El-Zibri is the PFLP’s sole representative on the committee, which includes three members of Arafat’s mainstream Fatah faction, the largest of the six guerrilla groups in the PLO.

He declared last week in Damascus, Syria, that Arafat’s recognition of Israel and renunciation of terrorism ″were only Arafat’s personal opinion and are incompatible″ with resolutions passed by the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament-in-exile, when it declared an independent state last month.

″We will continue to exercise our legitimate rights in struggling against the occupation by all means available, including armed struggle,″ El-Zibri said.

Palestinian dissidents based in Syria warned last week they would continue ″the armed struggle″ against Israel to thwart Arafat’s peace moves and also would seek to oust him from PLO leadership.

The United States has said it will break off the dialogue with the PLO if the group is found to have carried out terrorist attacks.

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