State Department Appears Ambiguous on What is Basic Issue in Mideast

The State Department appeared to take an ambiguous stance today between the Israeli claim that Arab refusal to recognize a sovereign Jewish State was the core of the Middle East conflict and the view expressed by some U.S. officials that the Palestinian issue was the heart of the matter. The Department also professed to have no information on several reports from the Middle East that would directly affect Israel’s security.

Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to comment on Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s statements here last week that Arab refusal to recognize Israel was the main source of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the recent testimony by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Harold Saunders that it was the Palestinian question, John Trettner. Department spokesman, replied: “I don’t think either one of these comes first.” He added that the legitimate rights of the Palestinians have to be taken into account but that “the PLO must recognize Israel before any decision can be arrived at.”

Responding to another question by the JTA. Trattner said he could not confirm a dispatch from Damascus published here that between 1000-1500 North Vietnamese; North Korean and Cuban troops are presently in Syria along with some 3000 Soviet military advisors. Trattner also said he had no information that King Hussein summoned 15 West Bank leaders to an urgent meeting of the Jordanian parliament in Amman. (See separate story.)

Asked about reports that the U.S. has projected the sale of six C-130 military transport planes to Egypt, with expected delivery this spring, Trattner replied: “At the time of the Sadat (President Anwar Sadat of Egypt) visit, we said we would consult Congress before selling military equipment to Egypt. It is true that the Egyptian government would like to purchase C-130s but no U.S. government decision on a supply relationship with Egypt will be taken without thorough consultation with Congress.”

It was recalled that during Sadat’s visit here last October, a State Department official had told reporters that the Egyptian leader brought no weapons shopping list to Washington.

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