Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arafat Wins Backing of PLO Group for Pact

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arafat Wins Backing of PLO Group for Pact

Article excerpt

The mainsteam PLO group Fatah has approved a deal with Israel on Palestinian self-rule, PLO executive committee Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday.

"The deal was approved," he said.

"There are no more debates on it," added Abbas, a member of Fatah's central committee, which had spent three nights under PLO chairman Yasser Arafat debating the self-rule agreement.

Bassam Abu Sharif, a top aide to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, said that Arafat had won "a crushing majority," but declined to give a vote.

Support from Fatah will allow Arafat to take the agreement to the PLO's ruling Executive Committee and the Palestine National Council, or parliament-in-exile, where he is expected to face an even tougher fight.

This key hurdle on the road to Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho was cleared after two days of stormy meetings of the Fatah Central Committee, aide Bassam Abu Sharif said.

"The chairman has emerged victorious despite some objections, but the majority of the members (of the central committee) endorsed his plan and voted for his policy on the peace talks," Abu Sharif said.

The criticism of the PLO chairman revolved around charges that Arafat failed to consult his aides during the eight months of secret negotiations with Israel. At least three also accused of Arafat of settling for too little too fast.

The accord also continued to generate opposition among both Israelis and Palestinians, particularly Muslim fundamentalists, who constitute the secular PLO's biggest competition in the occupied territories.

About two dozen fundamentalists marched through the alleys of Jabalia Camp in the Gaza Strip and then stoned an Israeli army base, Arab reports said. Soldiers opened fire, wounding five in the legs, hospital officials said.

Earlier in the day, soldiers moved in after youths emerging from the al-Qasaam Mosque hurled stones at the soldiers' vehicles. Soldiers fired some shots over the heads of 200 protesters who shouted, "We don't want peace."

The soldiers shouted back: "We don't want peace either."

In Lebanon, about 1,000 Palestinian refugees demonstrated against the accord in the southern refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh, where about 70,000 people live. …

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