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U.S. Reassessment of Mideast Not Yet Near Conclusion

The White House and the State Department made it clear today that the Ford Administration’s reassessment of Middle East policy is ongoing and not yet near a conclusion. Presidential Press Secretary Ron Nessen told reporters that President Ford’s statement Friday that the U.S. approved Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 on the Middle East “stands.”

Questioned about Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger’s remarks Saturday that the Administration would have to seek a definition of what is meant by secure, recognized borders for Israel as stated in Resolution 242, Nessen referred reporters to the State Department.

Kissinger made his remarks with respect to the letter to Ford last week signed by 76 Senators urging the President to reaffirm American military and economic support for Israel and stand by the principle of secure, defensible borders for that country. Kissinger observed that the matter of borders was one of the “ambiguities” in Resolution 242 and that the Administration would seek definition in consultation with Congress, especially the Senate.

MUM ON RESOLUTION 242 DEFINITION

State Department sources declined to comment on Kissinger’s statement or why, nearly eight years after the adoption of Resolution 242, the Secretary of State finds it necessary to look for a definition of its contents.

Asked what happened to the Rogers Plan, the State Department sources would say only that the reassessment of Middle East policy is continuing. The Rogers Plan, enunciated in December, 1969 by former Secretary of State William P. Rogers, envisioned a Middle East settlement based on Israel’s return to its pre-June, 1967 borders with only minor boundary changes. It was taken to represent the U.S. Interpretation of Resolution 242 with regard to secure boundaries for Israel.

Ford and Kissinger both said over the weekend that the U.S. would present its own Middle East peace plan after the President’s meetings next month with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Premier Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. Kissinger stressed that this would be done only if the President failed to bring Israel and Egypt closer and that the U.S. would not impose any solution. Any settlement has to be worked out by the Arabs and Israelis through direct or indirect negotiations, he said.

Ford, who was interviewed Friday by five European correspondents, was asked how he could have taken two months reassessing American Mideast policy and then go into his meeting with Sadat in Salzburg, Austria June 1-2 “with no new policy.” The President replied that his talks with Sadat “is a very understandable part of the (reassessment) process.”

“I want to get first hand from him (Sadat) his analysis, his recommendations” toward “a peaceful solution,” Ford said. He then noted he would meet Rabin in Washington June 11-12 “where I will have the same intimate relationship” and then “sometime shortly afterwards we will lay out what we think is the best solution.” Ford’s televised interview with the European correspondents was to lay the groundwork for his trip to the meetings of the heads of state of NATO members in Brussels Wednesday and his subsequent visits to Italy, Spain and Austria.

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