In Lebanon, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, (PLO) Mr. Yasser Arafat, has made?
In Lebanon, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, (PLO) Mr. Yasser Arafat, has made his first public appearance since five Palestinian guerrilla organisations demanded a change in the PLO's leadership last month (24 May). Mr. Arafat, who attended a graduation ceremony for PLO fighters in Beirut on Thursday (8 June) renewed calls for Palestinian unity.
SYNOPSIS: There was a full guard of honour for the visit to the PLO fighters training ground by the Organisation's leader. Reports said Mr. Arafat was quite calm despite the accusations he has faced of autocratic rule of the organisation. The accusations came in a statement drafted jointly by the Radical Rejection Front and the pro-Soviet Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in the past an ally of Mr. Arafat's Fatah organisation. Fatah is the largest commando group which Mr. Arafat heads.
The statement did not mention the commando chief by name, but the meaning of the statement was clear. A PLO official has said that it was directly aimed against Arafat and could be the most serious challenge to his position since he was elected PLO executive committee chairman in 1969. As troops went about a demonstration of exercises some commando officials in Beirut said the statement could prompt Mr. Arafat into adopting a political line closer to the Rejection Front.
However reports said the 48-year-old commando chief, who is regarded as a master in the art of crisis management, enjoyed himself at the demonstration. On his tour of the military training ground the PLO leader briefly took over a grenade throwing class.
The Rejection Front which is led by Dr. George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine opposes a peaceful settlement of the Middle East conflict under the present balance of power in the area. It is reported to view conservative Arab states with almost as much hostility as it does Israel. The Rejection Front wants the command structure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation reorganised in such a way that much of the power of Fatah would be diminished.
The military display in Beirut in honour of Mr. Arafat came the day after the Lebanese Prime Minister Dr. Selim Al-Hoss announced that the government had reached no new agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The Prime Minister has recently made a tour of villages in Southern Lebanon.
Mr. Arafat has also been accused of relying on what the Rejection Front describes as reactionary regimes, particularly Saudi Arabia where Mr. Arafat had talks last month during a tour of the Gulf. The PLO leader told the graduation ceremony that he was always ready to implement palestinian unity and that the organisation had always been in favour of democratic dialogue. In a speech seen by observers as his reply to his critics, Mr. Arafat said Fatah must achieve total unity of all its forces.