The Palestine Liberation Organization is being pushed and pushed hard to take a clearer stand as King Hussein's partner in the peace process.

"He is angry. He is upset," said a PLO elder statesman, Khalid Hassan, who spent several hours talking to the king on Wednesday to prepare for a visit here by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat early next week. "We are angry. We are upset."

The king has warned that he will have a "very, very frank discussion" with Arafat.

Yet, talk of a complete rupture between the two, or of the king forcing Arafat to agree publicly to recognize Israel's right to exist or renounce terrorism, as Washington and Jerusalem demand, appears to be premature.

Hassan suggested that there are sharp limits on the king's desire or ability to compel radical changes in the PLO's stand even though he conceded that the organization has been weakened seriously.

Its attempts to carry out military actions against Israel have been thwarted or become infamous terrorist acts. The leadership is spread all over the map, reducing its presence in Tunisia since the Israeli raid there, according to Hassan.

It faces the implicit threat that Jordan, too, might expel some of its members.

Already, some senior PLO officials no longer are allowed to come here, Hassan said, although he would not say flatly that the king barred them.

Among these are Mohammed Natour, or Abu Tayeb, the commander of the PLO's Force 17, which Israel says killed three Israelis in Cyprus last month, setting off the chain reaction of violent reprisals and retaliations this month.

"Jordan has its own sovereignty, and they have the right to tell any non-Jordanian to get out," Hassan said, but "maybe we see that it's not in our interest to have Abu Tayeb come back, because he's got a big mouth."

The PLO, meanwhile, is hard pressed internally to control its many factions and sympathizers -- not only those such as Mohammed Abbas, whose Palestine Liberation Front faction hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, but the increasingly restive Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Hassan said he is asked repeatedly, "Does Mr. Arafat control the Palestinian people or not?"

"God himself does not control all his people," Hassan said.

But, he insisted, "you have to judge things from the mainstream policy, the mainstream behavior," and this policy and behavior are still close enough to the king's wishes and needs to let relations continue that were begun formally last Feb. 11, when Hussein and Arafat signed an accord to work jointly for peace.

Hassan likened the relationship to a troubled new marriage, but insisted that "divorce is not under consideration at all."

Instead, both PLO and Jordanian officials are talking about the need for better cooperation and communication between them. Hassan suggested that a kind of working committee may emerge from the Arafat-Hussein meeting to smooth over the rough spots in their relationship.

It was the lack of clear-cut positions and cooperation that led to the abrupt cancellation earlier this month of a diplomatically vital meeting between a joint Jordanian-PLO delegation and Britain's foreign secretary.

But there was no hint that the PLO is likely to renounce what it calls "armed struggle" or that it is likely under any circumstances to recognize "Israel's right to exist" in just so many words.

Hassan is chairman of the Palestine National Council's foreign relations committee and, as a member of the Fatah Central Committee, part of Arafat's closest inner circle. Moderate, articulate and western-oriented, he was at the top of the list proposed by Arafat as a delegation to meet with representatives of the United States.

He is, in a PLO context, considered to be perhaps even to the right of the mainstream.

Speaking to several reporters late Friday, his language was conciliatory even toward Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Peres' precedent-setting speech before the United Nations on Monday, Hassan said in words echoing the king, showed a "positive spirit."

"When he Peres accepts an international conference, that's a positive spirit. When he accepts Jordanians and Palestinians, that's a positive spirit," and Peres' seeming willingness to contemplate a role for the United Nations is positive as well, Hassan said.

But, like the king, he cautioned that there is a long distance between such a spirit and concrete acts, and he showed no inclination to take the steps demanded by Peres before the PLO itself might be accepted as a party to negotiation.

Hassan insisted that while the PLO could live with the concept of "two states in one country, of two states in Palestine," it cannot recognize Israel's "right to exist" because to do so would grant Israel the moral right to have seized the homes and land of people like himself in the first place.

Asked why, since its major military operations have been fiascos anyway, the PLO does not make diplomatic points by declaring a cease-fire, Hassan said, "If it is the efficiency of the operations you are talking about, then I agree with you."

But he concluded that the principle of resistance is something that cannot be given up. "You cannot ask the man who is beaten to stop crying out for a while," he said.

There is expectation that on the West Bank many people would listen. Israeli intelligence officials have said that as many as half the Israelis killed in the occupied territories were slain by Palestinians acting on their own.

Pressed to say what the PLO would do if the king did decide to force Arafat out of Jordan and the PLO found itself not only without a homeland but also without temporary lodgings, even the moderate Hassan raised the specter of terror.

"I don't think it's to the benefit of anybody in the region, whether they love us or hate us, to push us to that wall of despair again, to push us underground again," he said. "God knows what we could do with this bloody Arab world if they are against us."