PLO seeks guarantee of civilian safety
| Damascus, Syria
The Palestine Liberation Organization, increasingly worried about attacks by Lebanese civilians and militiamen on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, is trying to get Lebanese government guarantees for their safety. About 300,000 to 400,000 Palestinian civilians remained in Lebanon when 12,000 PLO fighters were forced out last summer.
Such guarantees will be a precondition for the PLO to pull out the 7,000 or so fighters who remain in east and north Lebanon if an accord on withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon is reached.
According to Palestinian sources, during the recent visit of PLO official Abu Jihad (Khalil Wazir) to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Saudis agreed to dispatch their information minister, Ali Shaar, to meet with Lebanese leaders this week and discuss the problem of Palestinian civilians.
The PLO has come under increasing pressure to confront this situation from within its ranks. When a visitor related how Palestinians in one south Lebanon refugee camp feared leaving their houses, one PLO functionary pleaded, ''Tell Abu Jihad that. All this is happening, while they go on talking.''
In an interview, Abu Jihad listed the most pressing issues the Saudi representative would take up with the Lebanese government. These included: the alleged murder by Lebanese of 46 Palestinians in south Lebanon; telephone and mail threats to Palestinian refugees; threats against Lebanese landlords who rent to Palestinians; bombings of Palestinian-owned shops in Beirut refugee camps; the summary expulsion of about 60 Palestinians, said to hold valid identity cards, across the Syrian border; detention of hundreds of Palestinians by the Lebanese Army; alleged attacks by Christian Lebanese militiamen on Palestinian girls and women trying to cross into east Lebanon to visit their husbands and fathers on PLO bases.
As the price of evacuation from Lebanon, the PLO wants to work out a new accord with the Lebanese government to guarantee a Palestinian political, cultural, and informational presence in Lebanon, as well as protection for the camps. But PLO leaders are well aware that with Lebanese civilian feeling running high against Palestinians, such an agreement might not be enforced after the PLO leaves.
When asked how the PLO could guarantee enforcement, Abu Jihad replied, ''We'll have our ways to answer (if such a new accord were broken) even in our present situation. They (the Lebanese government) are looking for their security , and they know we can complicate everything in their land.''