Arafat seeks backing from top PLO body



TUNIS, Tunisia (AP)—The PLO’s ruling board debated Yasser Arafat’s peace deal with Israel Wednesday, and one PLO official said the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Jewish state already had agreed on mutual recognition.

Recognition and PLO Executive Committee approval are the key hurdles before the accord for Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho can be signed.

Opponents castigated the plan as a surrender to Israeli-imposed conditions, but PLO chairman Arafat still appeared set to win approval from nine of the 13 committee members in attendance—a majority.

The meeting adjourned early Thursday after 4^4 hours and was to reconvene later in the day, said committee member Abdullah Hourani, who opposes the plan.

‘‘We do need more time and we are not in a hurry,’‘ said Hourani, reflecting the view of Arafat’s foes, who complain he is railroading the PLO into a pact with Israel.

Israel wants the PLO to renounce its 30-year-old charter that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Negotiations over the form of the renunciation are continuing in Paris with the help of Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Joergen Holst, who brokered the autonomy plan.

Hourani said the meeting began Wednesday night with members asking Arafat to give them all the documents pertaining to the peace pact and present them for discussion.

Many Palestinian leaders complained of having to read details of the peace agreement in newspapers, with no chance to discuss them beforehand.

The Israeli magazine Haolam Hazeh, meanwhile, quoted Arafat as saying Israel has agreed to a two-stage withdrawal plan from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. The Syrian government did not comment.

In Tunis, a senior PLO official said Wednesday that the PLO and Israel had agreed on a draft declaration of mutual recognition.

The official, a member of the PLO committee that supervises the Mideast peace talks in Washington, spoke on condition of anonymity. He said under the draft, Arafat would:

_ Announce recognition of Israel and its right to exist.

_ Denounce terrorism.

_ Promise to call a meeting of the 468-member Palestine National Council, or parliament-in-exile, that would formally endorse his statements.

The official said Arafat was expected to make these commitments in a news conference soon after the Executive Committee meeting, and in a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The agreement for self-rule in Gaza and Jericho could then be signed later this month, probably before Sept. 20, the official said.

The gathering at Arafat’s headquarters was held amid tight security. Security officers kept journalists out of the building.

Hourani, head of the PLO’s cultural affairs department, grumbled to The Associated Press, ‘‘The Palestinians should not surrender and give the Israelis whatever conditions they impose on us.’‘

Foes of the plan say it ignores prime issues such as Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, the status of Jerusalem and the future of refugees.

In Jerusalem, Rabin’s government faced strident opposition to the deal from about 50,000 protesters who camped out near his office Tuesday night. Before dawn, police moved in with water cannons and clubs to disperse hundreds who stayed through the night. Forty-five people were injured and 33 arrested.

Israel’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that clouded the future of the peace process. It recommended that Rabin fire two ministers under investigation for corruption. Interior Minister Arieh Deri said he will resign Sunday, but he and the other five parliament members from his ultra-Orthodox Shas party threaten to bolt Rabin’s coalition government.

Shas’ departure would deprive Rabin of the Jewish majority in parliament he seeks to make concessions in the peace talks, though he has the vote of five Arab legislators.

A spokesman for one PLO faction which opposes the deal with Israel, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said Israel was interested in it only as a way to weaken the 5^4-year-old uprising against Israeli rule, by fomenting a ‘‘civil war’‘ among Palestinians.

The radical Hamas movement, which opposes any peace talks with Israel, said Wednesday it hoped the committee would reject the peace deal.

Mohammed Nazzal, Hamas’ spokesman in Jordan, said that even if the deal was approved, ‘‘we will act as if the agreement is nonexistent’‘ and continue the armed struggle against Israel.

Arafat arrived in Tunis after a brief stopover in Cairo en route from Oman, where Sultan Qaboos welcomed the peace accord. The trip was Arafat’s first to an oil-rich Persian Gulf nation since the oil states broke with him three years ago over his support for Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait.

In related developments:

_ In Brussels, Belgium, the European Community announced it would spend $590 million to fund economic development in the Israeli-occupied territories and in regions sheltering Palestinian refugees.

_ Jordan has stopped letting Palestinians from Gaza move freely into Jordan, a security official said on condition of anonymity. He said the government was afraid that the PLO’s agreement with Israel would produce a flood of Palestinian refugees who would destabilize Jordan.

_ In Lebanon, 189 deportees prepared to return to Israeli-occupied lands on Thursday. The men were among more than 400 Muslim fundamentalist activists expelled by Israel after six Israeli soldiers were killed in December. A few have already returned, and the remaining 207 are to be repatriated within three months.