Leaders of the National Right to Life Committee said yesterday that they will not get involved in the current fight over whether the Republican Party's position on abortion should include language to accommodate abortion rights supporters in the party.

David O'Steen, executive director of the committee, said the organization preferred that a "declaration of tolerance" be placed somewhere other than in the abortion plank of the GOP platform. But he added: "Ultimately where it is is an issue for delegates to the convention to decide. We're more focused on the Democrats and whether or not they're going to have a statement of tolerance at all and whether there's going to be discussion of their platform."

The comments by O'Steen and others, at the opening of their three-day national convention in Alexandria, signaled that the organization is trying to give presumptive Republican nominee Robert J. Dole room to maneuver as he tries to sort out internal party divisions over the issue. The comments by the leaders also put the committee, the nation's largest antiabortion group, at odds with other key activists in the movement who have been feuding with Dole over his concessions to leaders of the party who support abortion rights.

The reaffirmation of support from the National Right to Life Committee could help Dole solidify his credentials among antiabortion activists. Not only does the committee have an army of volunteers it can access and 3,000 chapters in 50 states, but it is the group most identified with leading the fight against the legal right to an abortion.

But just as the NRLC opened its convention, a prominent abortion rights group prepared to launch an advertising campaign aimed at causing problems for Dole among moderate swing voters, particularly women.

A 30-second television ad by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), which will begin running in Washington this weekend, takes aim at Dole's appeal for tolerance on the issue. "Now Bob Dole says he's tolerant on abortion?" an announcer says as Dole's face appears amid the backdrop of an alley at night. "The real story is he's supporting a platform that would make abortion illegal; take us back to back-alley abortions. . . . Join us in opposing Bob Dole's extremist party platform," the ad concludes. "While we still have a choice."

Dole campaign spokesman Nelson Warfield said the ad was "riddled with inaccuracy and ill will. Bob Dole supports exceptions to abortion restrictions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother."

The debate within the party is whether to include a "declaration of tolerance" in the preamble to the platform, where it could apply to other issues on which there is disagreement, or in the abortion plank itself, where many of the party's moderates want it. Though it is an innocuous argument to much of the public, it has consumed party activists.

After some hand-wringing, Dole had appeared to come down on the side of the moderates, though in an interview published Thursday in USA Today, Dole said "We'll work out whether it goes in the preamble or the plank or the plank and the preamble."

At the Right to Life Committee convention, O'Steen said, "Really the debate is about a statement we all know is true" -- that there are diverse opinions about this issue. But not everyone at the convention shared the view of their leaders.

Tammy Arnold, coordinator of New Life Counseling, a crisis pregnancy organization in Lake Charles, La., said of Dole: "I think he's wavering. I think he's going to kill himself {politically}. If he keeps wavering, he's going to be just like President Clinton."

And while she could never support Clinton in the fall election, Arnold said, Dole's shakiness might limit her normal activism. "I probably just wouldn't get as involved," she said.