Militants' arrest in Jordan linked to arms hoard

September 08, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- The arrest in Jordan of Muslim fundamentalists, including two members of Parliament, has provided indications that the militants have been stockpiling weapons for a campaign to thwart a possible agreement by the Palestine Liberation Organization for self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, diplomats and reports published here said yesterday.

Amman's state security court on Saturday charged a Muslim fundamentalist legislator, Laith Shbeilat, with possessing and transporting firearms, Jordanian security officials were quoted by Arab radio as saying yesterday.

Another Islamic member of the lower house of Parliament, Yacoub Qarrash, was arrested Aug. 26 on suspicion of possessing explosives. Mr. Qarrash was also questioned about a previously unknown underground fundamentalist faction, Vanguards of Islamic Youth.

Hamas, a Palestinian Muslim fundamentalist faction based in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, has confirmed that eight of its members have been under arrest in Jordan for several weeks after they had been caught carrying firearms.

The group said in a letter published yesterday in the Lebanese daily Al Hayat that the weapons were not intended for use in Jordan but that the arrested men were planning to smuggle them across the border into the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinian hard-liners, even inside the PLO itself, have escalated their opposition to plans for Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that they say ignore Arab rights.

Al Hayat said in a special dispatch from the Jordanian capital that investigators have found evidence linking the arrested fundamentalists to Iran and to the hard-line Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, led by Ahmed Jebril.

Al Hayat said concern was deepening in Amman about a war breaking out among Palestinian factions if the PLO accepts a compromise at the peace talks sponsored by the United States.

In an address transmitted yesterday from Jerusalem to delegates at the B'nai B'rith International convention in Washington, D.C., Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel said that the general mood has improved in the peace negotiations involving Israel, its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.

But Mr. Rabin said that Syria has made no offers to establish diplomatic, cultural and commercial relations.

In exchange for the return of the Golan Heights, a plateau that Israel captured in 1967, Syria has indicated that it would accept a peace agreement but "not open boundaries, not embassies, not commercial and cultural relationships," Mr. Rabin said.

Syrian negotiators outlined their views on peace in the Middle East in a document presented to Israeli officials a week ago. The text of the document has not been released, and none of the negotiators has described the Syrian position in terms as specific as Mr. Rabin has.

The Syrian Embassy was closed yesterday, and Syrian officials could not be reached for comment.

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