Report: Palestinian Military Leader Wants Arafat Ouster, Israel Peace Talks
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Palestinian guerrilla military leader says it is time to oust Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization and move the group toward peace talks with Israel.
Abu-Zaim, also known as Col. Atallah Atallah, says he has ordered fighters under him to halt all terrorist acts, according to an interview published in today’s editions of The Washington Times.
″My dream is not just to be a man who fought against the Israelis but a man who knew how to make peace,″ Atallah said in the interview. ″Now we need constructive acts, we must no longer deceive our people. It is obvious that peace will not come without direct negotiations with Israel.
″The solution is negotiations with Israel in conjunction with Jordan,″ he said.
Atallah, 50, is a former PLO intelligence chief who is leading what he calls a ″corrective movement″ within Al Fatah, the main guerrilla organization of the PLO.
The PLO’s supreme military council, angered by Atallah’s actions, stripped him of his title and expelled him from Al Fatah in April. However, Atallah and his small group of followers rejected the expulsion, terming it ″invalid.″
Atallah convened what he called the Al Fatah general military council, which fired Arafat as military commander and replaced him with Atallah. Few PLO officials or diplomats who monitor the organization considered the council meeting legitimate.
PLO officials have accused Jordan of supporting Atallah in order to harass Arafat, an allegation Jordanian officials have denied.
Atallah, who deserted the Jordanian army in 1970, was permitted back in the country early this year following Arafat’s petition. PLO officials contend he had been inactive as a military figure since 1982.
In the interview, which was published with a dateline of Amman, Jordan, Atallah said an Al Fatah congress would meet within two months in the Jordanian capital to formally remove Arafat as PLO chairman.
He said a general assembly of Palestinians from the Middle East would then gather to elect a new PLO parliament and executive council.
″The military option has failed; there is only the peace option,″ Atallah was quoted as saying. ″I want to prepare the Palestinians to accept peace.″
Atallah also accused Arafat of embezzling millions of dollars of Palestinian money and putting it in bank accounts in his own name, as well as using it to give gifts, loans, and even pay a $15 million ransom to the kidnappers of three Soviet diplomats in Beirut earlier this year.