ALGIERS, Algeria -- Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is expressing support for American efforts to convene a Middle East peace conference, but is offering no specific concessions to meet Israeli demands for Palestinian attendance at such a gathering.
Addressing 450 delegates at the opening yesterday of a meeting of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's parliament, Arafat apparently tried to strike a balance between moderates within his organization who want compromise with the United States on the peace talks and hard-liners opposed to any concessions to Israel.
"We renew our readiness to work with all the international parties to make the peace conference successful," Arafat said. But he also said, "We reject the Israeli blackmail and the Israeli conditions."
Israel has conditionally agreed to attend the conference, and Israel's Arab neighbors also have signaled their willingness to attend, leaving the Palestinians as the only major party to the Arab-Israeli conflict yet to give Baker an answer.