The Palestine Liberation Organization is willing to pull out Palestinian guerrillas remaining in northern and eastern Lebanon if that would help secure an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat told a leftist newspaper in an interview published today.
The guerrilla leader said to the pro-Libyan daily As Safir: "We will pull them the guerrillas out if that would help secure an Israeli withdrawal."
Although Arafat has often expressed readiness to facilitate the task of Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, this was the first time he has expressed in such clear terms his readiness to pull out the estimated 7,000 remaining guerrillas.
His statement came after Gemayel had made a conciliatory gesture by sending two envoys to meet with the Palestinian leader last week in Tunis to discuss the future of the guerrillas in Lebanon. PLO officials were reported pleased that Gemayel had attempted to include them in consultations prior to the Israeli-Lebanese talks now taking place.
Previously, Palestinian figures have vowed that guerrillas, still entrenched in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley behind Syrian lines, would not depart before the last Israeli soldier left Lebanese soil.
[The Palestinian news agency WAFA said that Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov has invited Arafat to visit the Soviet Union, The Associated Press reported.]