The Palestine Liberation Organization has conducted two rounds of meetings with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas and has received assurances from a range of opposition organizations that they will not create clashes in the new autonomy zones, PLO leadership sources say.
Hamas leaders, who met with an envoy of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat last week in Jordan, had appeared close to an agreement for accepting seats on the new 25-member Palestinian Authority before the talks were derailed by leaks in Tunis and Amman, the sources said.But Abbas Zaki, a leader of Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction, said he won assurances from radical groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command - which had called for the streets to be washed in Arafat's blood in the wake of his accord with Israel - that opponents will mount no attacks against the PLO leader or members of the new Palestinian Authority.
"They will not join," he said in an interview after meeting with opposition leaders such as Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Ali Mustafa of the Popular Front and two leaders of the PFLP-GC. "But they let me know that if we deal with them in good will, and allow everybody to have his own opinion, we can prevent any clashes."
Arafat so far has packed the governing authority with his supporters, most from his Fatah organization and the tiny Palestinian Democratic Union, which also backs the peace plan with Israel. With 20 seats filled so far, the PLO chairman has left open the last bloc of seats in the hope of attracting the opposition into the peace fold.
Key among those groups is Hamas, whose threat to continue a violent campaign against the Israeli occupation could derail the fledgling autonomy effort in Jericho and the Gaza Strip.
Arafat advisers said after the Hamas meetings in Tunis that they believe there are factions within Hamas leaning toward cooperating with the peace agreement. They said part of the talks with Hamas focused on an attempt to win a pledge that there would be no more attacks against Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.