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Carter Congratulates Begin; Invites Him to Washington for Talks July 19-20

The White House confirmed today that President Carter has invited the newly installed Premier Menachem Begin of Israel to confer with him and his principal aides in Washington on July 19-20. Begin announced in Jerusalem earlier today that he had received a letter from Carter containing warm congratulations and an official invitation to visit Washington during the week of July 18.

Carter’s letter was received within hours after Begin’s government was sworn into office following a long Knesset debate. According to the text of the letter released by the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, the President expressed a desire to establish a personal relationship with the new Israeli leader and to exchange views on a Middle East peace settlement and other matters of mutual concern to the U.S. and Israel.

The President wrote: “. . .As you know, I am deeply committed to helping Israel and its neighbors seek a lasting peaceful resolution to the conflict between them. . . . I am sure that this is an objective I share with you and I would welcome your ideas on how progress toward peace can best be achieved. . . . I would like, therefore, to invite you to visit the United States during the week of July 18 and to join with you in a partnership of principle leading to a just and peaceful settlement of the dispute between Israel and its neighbors.”

GENEVA CONFERENCE STILL HOPED FOR

White House Press Secretary Jody Powell, who announced the invitation here, was asked by reporters if a reassessment of American policy has been taking place and whether a Geneva conference on the Middle East is still possible this year. Powell replied that U.S. policy has not changed and that the Carter Administration still hopes to see the Geneva conference reconvened in the next six months, provided that the necessary groundwork is laid.

That was interpreted as an indication that the questions of participants in the conference and the movement toward narrowing the differences between Israel and the Arab states remain unsolved.

In keeping with the visits here of former Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in April and May, Begin’s visit is expected to include meetings with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal and Defense Secretary Harold Brown as well as with key members of the Senate and House committees dealing with foreign affairs.

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