WASHINGTON (Dec. 15)
President Carter said today that he does not know what Israeli Premier Menachem Begin will say to him at their scheduled three-hour session tomorrow morning at the White House. But, he added, he would have “no reticence” to tell Begin “privately” whether his proposals, should the Premier offer them, are in the “right direction” or “fall far short” of what Egyption President Anwar Sadat “could accept.”
In a White House news conference, in which he also criticized the Soviet Union and stated that the Palestine Liberation Organization has removed itself “from any immediate prospects of participation into peace discussion,” Carter said he and Sadat “exchanged communications several times a week” and “I think I know at least in general terms what would be acceptable to President Sadat.”
However, Carter added, “I would not be the ultimate judge of whether it would be acceptable to the Egyptians or not. That would be up to President Sadat.” His remarks were in response to a question whether it was his intention to endorse specific proposals that “Begin or anyone else presents to you of what they hope to do” and “be able to go back to a peace conference to say Jimmy Carter says this is what he likes.’” The President described the questioner’s inquiry a fairly good assessment.
HOPE FOR ACCEPTABLE PEACE MOVES
“Our immediate hope and goal,” Carter said, “is that any peace moves made by Israel and Egypt would be acceptable to the moderate Arab leaders in the Middle East, certainly King Hussein of Jordan, certainly the Soudi Arabians. We have good indications in my personal visits with President (Hafez) Assad” of Syria that he “wants to resolve the difference. Lebanon is heavily influenced, as you know, by the Syrian presence there. The PLO has been completely negative. They have not been cooperative at all.”
Continuing, Carter stated: “In spite of my own indirect invitations to them, and the direct invitations by Sadat and by Assad, by King Hussein, by King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, the PLO has refused to make any moves toward a peaceful attitude. They have completely rejected United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. They have refused to make public acknowledgement that Israel has a right to exist in peace, so I think they have, themselves, removed the PLO from any immediate prospects of participation in a peace discussion.
“But I certainly would not ascribe that sort of intransigence or negative attitude toward any of the other parties who have been mentioned as possible participants. We want to be sure that at least moderate Palestinians are included in the discussions.” Carter did not indicate whether he meant at Cairo or Geneva.
CRITICAL OF SOVIET UNION
Regarding the position of the Soviet Union, Carter said that “the Soviets have been much more constructive in the Middle East than they formerly had” but, he added, “obviously they have not been as constructive as I would like to have seen.” Carter said “I have no evidence that the Soviets have had to use their influence on the Syrians to prevent their attendance” at the Cairo meeting. “I think this is a decision” made by Assad.
The President expressed hope that the Soviet government “will continue to cooperate in the future toward an ultimate Geneva conference.” He summarized Soviet-U.S. relations with regard to the Middle East as “a mixed assessment” and added, “though in general it could have been much worse.”
Shortly after his news conference, Carter met with some 15 representatives of five major Arab-American organizations for some 90 minutes, according to Joseph Baroody, president of the National Association of Arab Americans. The group protested American’s policy in the Mideast and demanded the inclusion of the PLO in its statement to Carter but said “we concur with the scope of the Sadat-Begin talks” and expressed hope “these will lead to a more stable and secure situation.” It suggested that the Cairo “effort” be coupled with “a similar one in Lebanon” and emphasized relief for the people of that war-torn country.