PLO leaders said Saturday that Israeli and Palestinian officials have met and discussed giving autonomy to the occupied Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian concessions in the Persian Gulf crisis.
A senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization said a meeting took place last week in Paris. He said the PLO rejects the proposal, though some individual Palestinian leaders may consider it."The plan aims at providing the PLO with imaginary promises and illusions in order to cause splits in the unified Palestinian position over its support for Iraq," he said, speaking on condition he not be identified.
Reports on the meeting were confirmed by officials from the PLO's mainstream Fatah faction, the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
A Saudi businessman, Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and other Israelis "met with a Palestinian personality and representatives of some Arab states and discussed the possibility of granting Gaza Strip to the Palestinians to exercise self-autonomy there," according to Abdul-Rahim Mallouh, politburo member of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Mallouh, whose faction is the second largest within the PLO, said a final agreement was being proposed only after the "PLO offers some concessions," including withholding support from Iraq and dropping the linkage between the Palestinian problem and Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.
There was no Israeli comment on the reported talks.
Arabs have rejected a previous Israeli plan to grant self-rule to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. They have called for an Israeli withdrawal from those lands and the formation of a Palestinian state after talks under the aegis of the United Nations.
Israeli leaders have rejected a binding international peace conference on the Middle East. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has recently suggested he would keep the territories under Israeli rule.