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Kissinger Says Progress in Mideast Negotiations Would Lessen Need for U.S. Proposals

Whether there is an American proposal for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict depends on the evolution of diplomacy in the Middle East, Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger said today. He told the House international Relations Committee that if there is an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt there will be less need for an American plan.

Kissinger testified before the committee on President Ford’s trip to Europe including Ford’s meeting with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Salzburg, Austria, but most of the questions were on the Middle East. His appearance came only a few hours before Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin was due to arrives in Washington. (See separate story.)

Emphasizing that the United States is committed to breaking the Mideast stalemate, Kissinger declared that prospects for a second interim agreement between Israel and Egypt are better than they were earlier in the spring. He said he sensed a new conciliatory attitude among all parties in the Mideast.

FORD WILL DISCUSS ‘OPTIONS’ WITH RABIN

President Ford said at a press conference last night that his meeting with Premier Rabin “will be a meeting where I will get his personal assessment of the overall situation in the Middle East.” He said that he and the Israeli leader “will discuss the options that I see as possible–either a resumption of the suspended step-by-step negotiations or a comprehensive recommendation that I would make to probably reconvene the Geneva conference or a step-by-step process under the umbrella of the Geneva conference.” He said he would go into these alternatives or options “in depth” with the Prime Minister and when their discussions are concluded “I’ll be in a better position to know how our government should proceed in trying to achieve a broader peace, a more permanent peace, with fairness and equity in the Middle East.”

The President remarked later in his press conference, “I think I can benefit immeasurably by meeting face-to-face with people like Prime Minister Rabin and President Sadat,” adding that “in this area of major decision,” the Middle East, “we have to get the broadest possible information to make the best judgements.”

KISSINGER MIGHT RETURN TO MIDEAST

Asked about the possibility of face-to-face negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors, Kissinger replied that if there is an interim agreement it would probably come through American mediation. He said he has no plans to return to the “shuttle” diplomacy between Israel and Egypt which broke down March 22. But, he said that after Rabin’s visit, if the “parties” appeared to be close to an agreement, he might return to the Mideast but for a shorter duration than the three weeks he spent there in March.

Kissinger reiterated that the U.S. would do whatever the parties wanted in order to reach an agreement. But he indicated his preference for interim agreements because “we never believed Geneva is the ideal form, especially from Israel’s standpoint.” He said that at a reconvened Geneva conference all elements of settlement would be open for discussion by numerous participants.

The Secretary of State also stressed that the “United States has had an historical friendship with Israel” and supports Israel’s “survival.” At the same time, he said, the U.S. would like to maintain friendly relations with the Arab countries.

Kissinger, in response to a question, said that a final peace settlement would require some kind of “assurance” by the U.S. of Israel’s “viability,” He emphasized he would not use the word “guarantee,” noting that this is “a complicated matter,” He added that such a commitment “need not be offensive to the Arab countries,” noting that Sadat has said that Egypt would not object to an American guarantee for Israel in a final settlement. He stressed that the U.S. is not considering establishing military bases in Israel.

The committee went into executive session after an hour of public testimony. Members later said that neither Israel nor the U.S. has specific estimates on military and economic aid for Israel. It was also reported that an interim agreement must be accompanied by a U.S. commitment to supply Israel with arms.

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