Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization are trying to decide which non-PLO members should be part of a joint negotiating team, and U.S. officials said yesterday that they do not know if the names will be ready for Secretary of State George P. Shultz when he visits Amman Sunday.
The officials, who declined to be identified, were commenting on reports from Amman quoting Jordanian officials as saying that such a list has been chosen from the Palestine National Council. The reports said council members are being used to skirt U.S. refusal to deal with Palestinians who belong to the PLO.
The PLO regards the PNC as its legislative body. However, the United States considers the PNC a separate organization composed of PLO and non-PLO members and has dealt with members of it not affiliated formally with the PLO.
In response to the reports from Amman, U.S. officials confirmed that King Hussein's government is exploring with the PLO whether independent PNC members could be added to a proposed Jordanian delegation that would negotiate with Israel on the future status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In this way, the officials said, Hussein hopes to arrange a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that would allow the PLO to say it is represented in the negotiations and simultaneously permit Israel and the United States to maintain their refusal to deal with the PLO.
The officials cautioned, however, that reports of agreement on a list are, as one put it, "way out in front of the actual situation." He added, "The Jordanians are floating that with the western press in an apparent attempt to flog the pace of their negotiations with the PLO."
As of now, he added, "the idea that there is an agreed Jordanian-PLO list appears to be substituting the wish for the deed."
The officials said that, if a list is ready when Shultz visits Amman, he would be willing to consider it and perhaps meet with the proposed members.
As of yesterday, the officials emphasized, they could not say whether the Jordanian-PLO negotiations would produce agreement. They said the the answer probably will not become clear until Shultz reaches Amman.