PLO chief Yasser Arafat said Monday he wants U.N. help in getting Israel to join Middle East peace efforts, but he said Palestinians will not stop their uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories.
His visit was seen as part of his campaign to drum up international backing for a Mideast peace conference under U.N. auspices.Arafat, speaking to reporters at Vienna's Schwechat airport, sidestepped a question as to whether the Palestine Liberation Organization would continue armed resistance against Israeli authorities.
"You mean resistance," he said several times. "Our people will definitely continue their intefadeh," a reference to the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
His comment came a day after Salah Khalaf, the second-in-command in Arafat's Fatah PLO faction, made clear the PLO does not intend to abandon the use of force.
"Reagan may stop his government's dialogue with the PLO now if he thinks he will be able to stop our attacks against Israeli military targets," Khalaf said Sunday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It was an apparent reaction to the United States' statement Friday that any PLO terrorist acts would derail U.S.-PLO talks.
The PLO serves as an umbrella organization for eight guerrilla factions that sometimes fight among themselves or launch independent attacks on Israeli targets.
Arafat said he came to Austria "for more support in the direction of peace . . . for the process of peace" in the Middle East.
Asked how he wants to bring the Israelis in the process, Arafat said, "through the United Nations and through the support of all people who are looking forreal just peace in the Middle East."
He said he had expected Israel to reject his offer for direct talks with the PLO, made during a speech in Geneva last week.
"But sooner or later they will discover that peace is more important for them than anything else," he added.
Israel considers the PLO a terrorist organization and government officials have made clear they will not change their stance despite Friday's first direct contacts between the United States and the PLO in 13 years.
U.S. officials have indicated that a continuation of the talks will not continue until President-elect George Bush takes office Jan. 20.
After his comments at the airport, Arafat went to meet Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.
He arrived from Cairo, where he conferred with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
On Sunday, a senior Arafat adviser said Bush has a better grasp of the Arab-Israeli conflict than any U.S. leader since Richard Nixon and offers improved hopes for a peace settlement.
Hassan, a co-founder of the PLO's dominant Fatah faction, said in an interview in Tunis that he expects Bush or James Baker, the designated secretary of state, to make a clear policy statement on the Middle East peace process soon afterthe inauguration.
"Since Nixon there has been no U.S. policy for the Middle East," he said, describing the Ford, Carter and Reagan adminstrations as having had to learn the Palestinian question from scratch.
"The U.S. government needs a lot of work to prove its credibility," Has-san said. "I hope Bush will do that."