Arafat Discusses Statehood Plan with U.N. Chief, but Not the Press

Yasir Arafat told United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar on Saturday that a government in exile is one of the ideas he plans to present when the Palestine National Council meets next month in Algiers.

But the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman appeared to be more cautious than some of his aides in discussing details of the plan for statehood.

the normally publicity-hungry Arafat surprised the Geneva press corps by canceling a news conference scheduled to take place after his 90-minute meeting with the secretary-general. Instead of making a public appearance, the PLO chairman was reportedly whisked out a back door of the European headquarters of the United Nations here.

Perez de Cuellar, for his part, made it clear that the meeting took place at Arafat’s request.

A statement issued by the PLO reported that the discussion focused on the secretary-general’s efforts to secure compliance with various U.N. declarations. Arafat expressed concern over alleged Israeli acts of aggression against Palestinian refugee camps and villages in southern Lebanon.

The PLO chairman was also said to have expressed his organization’s desire to participate in an international peace conference on the Middle East. Israel has opposed PLO participation in such a conference, though the government is split on whether to back a conference that would include a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

Arafat was vague in discussing details of PLO plans to declare an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and set up a government in exile. He is apparently wary of the reaction of more militant factions in the PLO, which see the idea as an abandonment of the PLO’s armed struggle against Israel.

The outlines of the proposal were described in interviews given by Bassam Abu-Sharif, a close aide to Arafat. Sharif told The New York Times and the Associated Press that the Palestine National Council could pass a resolution, signed by Arafat with the approval of the various PLO factions, that would declare a state and recognize Israel on the basis of the U.N. partition plan of 1947.

Israeli leaders are tensely awaiting the Palestinian decision, which may shake the political firmament on the national and international level.

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