Yasser Arafat was reconfirmed today as the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the Palestine National Council, its unofficial parliament-in-exile, neared conclusion of a week-long meeting here.
Arafat, who called the meeting of the council in defiance of Syria and Syrian-backed PLO rebels for the express purpose of shoring up his leadership of the Palestinian movement, won an emotional vote of confidence from the delegates after dramatically announcing his resignation and then withdrawing it.
The council scheduled a concluding meeting for Thursday to elect a new executive committee of the PLO with Arafat once again at its head.
Arafat's continued leadership of the PLO had not been in serious doubt since last week, when, despite a boycott by the Syrian-supported rebels, he assembled a quorum of more than two-thirds of the council's 384 delegates for the meeting here.
But Arafat, always a skillful maneuverer in the world of Arab politics, appeared deliberately to be attempting to inject some drama into his reconfirmation by announcing his intention to resign last night.
Word of this quickly spread among the more than 250 council delegates, who this morning demanded that he change his mind. Then, in the midst of a speech in which Arafat's leadership was being extolled, several men approached the PLO chairman in the audience and began pulling him toward the front of the hall.
Arafat appeared to resist, but while the delegates chanted, the men pushed and shoved him to the front and hoisted him onto the stage.
Arafat, who appeared to be carrying notes for a speech, then delivered an impassioned, highly personal address pledging his willingness to serve the Palestinian cause in any capacity, and declaring that no Arab regime should be allowed to dictate to the Palestinians.
"I hereby bow to you," he told the delegates. "It is only you, the representatives of the Palestinian people, that decide if I go or if I stay."
"You stay, you stay, you are for us!" the delegates shouted back.
The PLO leader said he had offered his resignation to demonstrate that Syria could not dominate the PLO or decide who would be its leaders.