BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The government, officially silent on a U.S. extradition request, praised a Palestinian leader Sunday for having helped avoid a 'greater tragedy' in the hijacking of an Italian cruise ship.
The state-run Tanjug news agency announced that Mohammed Abbas, a member of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, arrived in Belgrade from Rome Saturday night.
The United States issued a warrant for his arrest Saturday and asked Italian authorities to hold him, but Italy allowed him to go free to Yugoslavia. The Justice Department charged that Abbas masterminded the hijacking last week of the Italian liner Achille Lauro by for Palestinian guerrillas.
Yugoslav government officials were not available Sunday for comment but sources close to the government suggested the Cabinet was highly unlikely to meet the U.S. extradition request.
Yugoslavia, a champion of the non-aligned movement, is a staunch supporter of the PLO and Arafat.
'As a PLO representative,' the news agency said, 'Mohammed Abu Abbas had several hours of negotiations with the hijackers of the Italian ship Achille Lauro on the passengers' release while the ship was at sea and after it had sailed into the Egyptian harbor of port said.
'The negotiations were successful and a greater tragedy was thus prevented,' it said.
The statement made no mention on any action planned by the government, which gives diplomatic status to the PLO.
PLO sources in Belgrade said Abbas would remain in the city for two or three days.