Arafat, Hussein go back to the drawing board on Palestinian issue

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

A feeling of optimism has surrounded talks between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Jordan's King Hussein in Amman. Palestinian and Jordanian officials stressed the atmosphere was one of ''openness and frankness'' since Mr. Arafat's arrival on Sunday. The two leaders resumed talks whether the King would represent Palestinians in possible talks with Israel over the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such talks would center on a United States proposal for a Palestinian ''entity'' on the West Bank and Gaza in confederation with Jordan.

The first trial in this Jordanian-Palestinian dialogue failed last April, the last time the two leaders met.

Then, as could happen now, radical Palestine Liberation Organization factions and Arab regimes like Syria and Libya succeeded in putting enough pressure on the PLO chairman to make it impossible for him to coordinate with King Hussein.

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Syria remains hostile to King Hussein's policies and is home for Arafat's opponents within the PLO. The resumption of the Hussein-Arafat dialogue cannot but sharpen the differences between these opposing groups. Arafat's new ''popular base'' is, however, in Jordan and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. He knows it as much as Hussein, who rules a kingdom with a population composed mostly of Palestinians.

[According to United Press International, Hussein urged Arafat to accept two United Nations Security Council resolutions in a move that would constitute recognition of Israel's right to exist, a government spokesman said Monday. A Western diplomat said,''The King appears to be taking a tough line with Arafat.'']

Arafat said the agenda of the talks was ''very long,'' but that most details would be worked out by delegations over the next months. Top on the agenda are the confederation formula and the negotiated solution for the Palestinian question.

The first topic could be the easiest one to shelve, at least for now. Both parties agree to the confederation ties, but they also agree the formula will not be applied before ''the liberation of the land.''

Officials on both sides have said that they aim for a ''distribution of the roles and the responsibilities'' in the search for a solution of the Palestinian problem. In other words, the talks should end up with at least a ''practical'' formula which Jordan and the PLO will then take to other Arab and international leaders.

Abu Jihad, the second in command of PLO forces, said before Arafat's arrival here that ''even if there is not complete harmony on the policy level, the PLO is convinced of the necessity of continued dialogue with Jordan.''

Arafat also stressed the importance of the contacts, wisely remembering the ''good words'' of King Hussein ''when we were besieged'' in Tripoli, Lebanon, by the Syrian-backed PLO rebels. The good words are still being said in Amman. Members of the Palestinian delegation - mostly from Arafat's Al-Fatah group - do not hide their satisfaction.

An atmosphere of secrecy surrounds the talks. Jordanians and Palestinians are coordinating on what information is made public during the talks.

This could mean both sides want to be careful to avoid ''unfortunate leaks'' during the discussions which, as a Jordanian official put it, ''have to get Jordan and the Palestinians out of the stalemate.''

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