Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi flew to North Yemen today in an apparently abortive attempt to patch up relations with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who blames Libya for supporting a mutiny within the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Qaddafi and Arafat, who also arrived in the North Yemeni capital of Sanaa today, did not meet, and Qaddafi later flew on to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. But the North Yemeni news agency reported that President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Qaddafi and Arafat had agreed to end their verbal attacks against each other.
Saleh said the two leaders had agreed to urge Arab states "to end their minor differences and start immediate action to rally their powers to fight the Israeli enemy, which is supported by imperialism."
Any agreement between the two Arab leaders would be in marked contrast to their statements only hours before. PLO Chairman Arafat, who has been traveling throughout the Persian Gulf region this week seeking to bolster support for his position, consistently has accused Qaddafi of backing a rebellion that began last month by members of Fatah, the largest faction of the PLO and Arafat's traditional power base. Qaddafi has pledged his support to the rebels and their charge that Arafat has given up on armed struggle against Israel. He also blamed Arafat for the assassination attempt against the Libyan charge d'affaires here Sunday.
But Qaddafi, who flew to Sanaa from the Organization of African Unity summit meeting in Ethiopia, struck a more conciliatory tone on his arrival. News services reported that he said, "We are in dire need of a meeting at this stage . . . to discuss ways to face dangers that require national mobilization." He accused Israel, backed by the United States, of aiming to "swallow the Arab world state by state, with a view to forming a Zionist empire."
The Libyan leader was met on his rare visit to Saudi Arabia by a delegation led by King Fahd, according to Saudi radio. Ties between the two countries have been strained, especially because of the Saudis' close ties to the United States. According to Saudi radio reports, Qaddafi flew there planning to participate in a Moslem pilgrimage Friday.
However, the Saudis have been very active in trying to negotiate among Arab leaders split over the PLO rebellion and the Lebanese-Israeli troop withdrawal accord. Saudi leaders reportedly are seeking an Arab summit meeting to deal with the issues.
Qaddafi's visit to Saudi Arabia follows an unusual visit by Crown Prince Abdullah to Libya, Syria and Iraq in his own shuttle to reconcile divergent Arab views.
At the same time, King Fahd made a special effort Monday to shore up Arafat's leadership, walking with him for television cameras at the dedication ceremonies for new additions to the Jeddah air base.
Fahd, Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid and Arab League Secretary General Chedli Klibi all have undertaken shuttle diplomacy on both issues dividing the Arabs now.
North Yemen's President Saleh appears by his actions today to be joining those efforts. It is still unclear whether he hoped to bring Arafat and Qaddafi together or merely wanted to serve as an interlocutor.
According to earlier press reports, the South Yemeni president was to have met with Qaddafi, Arafat and Saleh, but according to later reports only Saleh met with Qaddafi. The South Yemeni president did not travel to Sanaa, according to the reports, and it was also not immediately clear if Arafat had remained in North Yemen.