WASHINGTON (Oct. 28)
President Ford deeply regrets the decision by New York City Mayor Abraham D. Beame not to welcome President Anwar Sadat of Egypt when he arrives in New York tomorrow, White House Press Secretary Ron Nessen told reporters at a briefing at the White House today. He said he did not know whether Ford told Sadat of his regrets during their meeting at the White House this morning. Nessen noted that President and Mrs. Sadat are “guests of the President.”
Nessen said, in reply to a question raised by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Ford did not discuss with Sadat the latter’s remarks before the National Press Club yesterday in which he attacked Zionism as bringing “violence and hatred” to the Middle East and spoke of Egyptian Jews as having controlled his country’s economy until 1952 and taken orders from the Zionists.
ASK WHY ZIONISM WAS IGNORED
Reporters then pressed Nessen for an explanation of why the issue of Zionism was not discussed by the two Presidents since it had figured prominently in Sadat’s Press Club remarks yesterday, why Ford had words about Beame but not Zionism and whether Ford was “avoiding the subject.”
Nessen replied that “the thrust of their (Ford-Sadat) meetings is primarily to continue the momentum for the permanent peace settlement in the Middle East and bilateral relations.” Reporters insisted, however, in wanting to know if there was a tacit agreement not to discuss Zionism; Nessen replied that he did not know.
Asked why Zionism was ignored while the subject of the Palestinians was discussed, the press secretary evaded the question, stating only that the Ford-Sadat talks were being held in a “friendly and constructive atmosphere.” At one point, Nessen was asked if the issue of Zionism had no bearing on prospects for peace in the Middle East, to which he replied that he has not heard Ford say that.
BASHIR ASSAILS ZIONISM
When Nessen completed his briefing he turned the press room rostrum over to Tashin Bashir, Sadat’s press secretary, to explain Arab views on Zionism and, in effect, defend Sadat’s Press Club remarks, Bashir defined Zionism as “occupation by force, displacement of Arab people,” refusal to grant rights to the Palestinians, marking them second class citizens and refusal to implement United Nations resolutions. “We are willing to settle the Middle East problem in peace in accordance with the UN resolutions,” the Egyptian press attached said.
Bashir said “The philosophical and political content of Zionism is a hair-splitting issue” but did not elaborate. Asked if it would have been offensive to Sadat had Ford raised the issue of Zionism, Bashir said both Egypt and the U.S. raised it at the UN. He said “everything between friends can be discussed” but that “it would have been in ill taste.”
Asked if he meant Ford would have been guilty of had taste had raised the issue with his guest, Bashir replied, “That was not my intention, but was a general statement. All the facts are known to both Presidents.” The session was marked by loud and repeated interruptions.
SADAT MEETS AGAIN WITH FORD
Sadat himself met with reporters later in the day and repeated his attack on Zionism which he said came with “hatred, violence, war, blood” to the Middle East. “This is our assessment of Zionism,” Sadat said. He said the “Palestinians are ready to accept a secular state with the Jews but not the Zionists” and accused Israel of trying to impose its peace conditions on the Arabs.
The Egyptian President said he told Ford at their meeting that he believed the United States should enter into a dialogue with the Palestinians to hasten reconvening the Geneva conference. He said he urged such a dialogue because “the United States holds most of the cards in this game.”
Sadat said he was not asking the U.S. to end its special relationship with Israel, adding “I become concerned when some new, sophisticated arms go to Israel, like the Pershing missile.” He disclosed that the possible sale of Pershings to Israel came up in his talks with Ford and said he told the President that it would affect the Middle East arms balance and the prospects for a peaceful solution. Sadat said he had discussed U.S. arms sales to Egypt only in a broad way and that his main concern was Egypt’s economic reconstruction.
After the talks between the two Presidents, Nessen announced that Egypt and the U.S. signed an agreement whereby the U.S. will sell $98.1 million worth of wheat and tobacco to Egypt during the fiscal year ending next Sept. 30. The agreement is under America’s Food for Peace Program. During the signing of the agreement at the State Department, Sadat was the guest of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.