Facebook Twitter

ARAFAT ORDERS PLO OFFICES TO CLOSE TO PREPARE FOR MOVE

SHARE ARAFAT ORDERS PLO OFFICES TO CLOSE TO PREPARE FOR MOVE

Yasser Arafat has ordered PLO offices in Tunis closed by Wednesday in preparation for moving the headquarters of the Palestinian leadership to Jericho, PLO sources disclosed Thursday.

The circular ordering the closure was dated Saturday and distributed this week to more than 600 security and administrative officials.It was the first clear indication that the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman, after weeks of prevarication and foot-dragging, plans to move soon to Jericho to oversee self-rule in the town and the Gaza Strip.

But the order, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press by senior officials, did not mention a date for the departure or say how many staff members would move with Arafat to Jericho.

PLO officials have said they expected Arafat to travel to the West Bank around mid-June.

Israeli troops withdrew last month from Jericho and Gaza after 27 years of occupation. But Arafat has been reluctant to move to the self-rule areas, ostensibly because donor nations that have pledged more than $2 billion in aid have not turned over the money.

About 500 employees and former guerrillas already have left Tunis since Arafat and Israel signed an agreement on May 4 officially launching self-rule in Jericho and Gaza.

Excluded from Arafat's order to close was the PLO's political department, headed by Farouk Kaddoumi, which will operate from Tunis to build ties between the Palestinian authority and the international community.

The department also handles the affairs of some 3 million Palestinian refugees through offices in more than 70 countries.

PLO officials, insisting on anonymity, said Arafat also will keep his own office and a residence in Tunis for the time being. The PLO leadership moved to Tunis after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, where the PLO had been based.