U.S. Denies Changing Stand on PLO

The State Department said today that remarks by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Alfred Atherton, to newsmen yesterday “represent no change in the United States position” regarding Security Council Resolution 242 that is the “framework document” of the Arab-Israeli negotiation process.

The question arose after Atherton, the Department’s Middle East specialist, had indicated a possibility of change in position. Spokesman Hodding Carter said this occurred when Atherton, replying to a general question, said he could not rule out any change. Carter characterized this as a diplomat’s response.

He quoted Atherton as having said that “the United States fully supports Resolution 242 and that we would oppose efforts to amend or otherwise change it, or efforts that would be contrary to the purpose of Resolution 242.”

“We have the basis for negotiation,” Carter said with reference to 242. Responding to President Carter’s statement about “a homeland” and a “Palestinian entity,” spokesman Carter said “the form that it takes” is “for negotiation between the parties.” He did not identify the parties.

Atherton also was quoted yesterday as saying that the next move in the Middle East political process is up to the Palestine Liberation Organization whose executive committee meets Aug. 25 in Damascus. “We have no idea what they (the PLO) are going to do or when they are going to do it but the ball is in their court.” This was understood to be a reference as to whether the PLO would accept Resolution 242.

Atherton’s statement about the PLO appeared to some observers to put the United States in a position where it is leaving it to the PLO to determine the course of war or peace in the Middle East.

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