Mediation team to meet with Hamas Delegation aims to renew talks between extremists, Palestinian authority

April 08, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- An unofficial delegation of Palestinian political leaders and intellectuals, hoping to act as intermediaries between the militant Islamic group Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian authority, plans to travel to Jordan this week to meet with leaders of the extremist organization.

The self-appointed mediators said yesterday that they aim to restart negotiations between the two sides that broke off before Palestinian elections in January and to bring the extremists into the emerging Palestinian political system. They said they are seeking an end to terrorist attacks against Israel and to sweeping Palestinian police arrests of Hamas activists.

The group is led by Faisal Husseini, Mr. Arafat's representative in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, and includes Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank leader of Mr. Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. But they insist they are acting independently, and Mr. Arafat has said he is not interested in the negotiations.

Mr. Arafat told a Palestinian authority Cabinet meeting in the West Bank town of Nablus on Friday that he no longer believes Hamas political leaders can control the group's military wing and will not negotiate further with them.

The developments came as Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudinah denied a report published in the London newspaper Al-Hayat that Mr. Arafat told Hamas he is prepared to halt arrests and release some detained activists from Hamas and another militant group, Islamic Jihad, in exchange for a halt to military operations against Israel through the country's May 29 elections.

Al-Hayat quoted a Hamas leader last week as saying that Mr. Arafat's goal appeared to be "to give the Israeli peace camp a chance in the election." A suspension of terrorist attacks would boost the election bid of Prime Minister Shimon Peres, one of the architects of the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Final negotiations are scheduled to begin May 4 on the outstanding issues of West Bank Jewish settlements, control of Jerusalem and the borders and the status of the Palestinian-rule area. The Palestinians want an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Ghassan Khatib, one of the members of the team of would-be mediators, said he believes Mr. Arafat will eventually resume talks with Hamas. "I don't think a phenomenon like Hamas can be uprooted by force," Mr. Khatib said.

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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