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Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
Palestinian hardliners elect new head
Habash is against the peace talks
George Habash resigned from the leadership in April
By Barbara Plett in Amman

The leftist Palestinian faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has elected Abu Ali Mustafa as its new leader.

He replaces the group's founder, George Habash, a staunch opponent of the Oslo peace accords with Israel.

The PFLP has taken steps to improve relations with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

But at its sixth conference it reaffirmed the group's rejection of current Israeli-Palestinian talks and called for new ones.

Abu Ali Mustafa - who was born Mustafa al-Zibri - has a lower profile than his predecessor, who brought world attention to the Palestinian problem with a series of hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s.

Symbol of struggle

PFLP poster
PFLP poster: The group brought attention to the cause

George Habash resigned as head of the PFLP in April, saying he wanted to focus on research about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He is a symbol of the old-guard Palestinian leadership that rejected the American-sponsored peace talks and the 1993 interim agreement with Israel negotiated by the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

In recent years, Mr Habash had toned down his opposition, allowing his then deputy, Abu Ali Mustafa, to hold reconciliation talks with Mr Arafat.

Mr Mustafa has now returned from exile to the Palestinian-ruled territories, but he has stressed that his group continues to oppose current peace talks with Israel because Palestinians are not getting a fair deal.

No surrender

Abu Ali Mustafa: Lower profile than predecessor

In a recent statement, Mr Mustafa warned Mr Arafat not to surrender Palestinian rights at a forthcoming summit with US and Israeli.

The leaders are meant to use it to broker a final peace agreement.

He questioned the point of the meeting, saying that Israel had already refused key Palestinian demands.

The PFLP conference said there should be negotiations based on UN resolutions demanding Israel's withdrawal from occupied Arab land.

It stressed the Palestinian right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

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