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Begin Receives Friendly Letter from Sadat Leading to Speculation That the Two Leaders May Meet Again

Premier Menachem Begin said today that he would reply early next week to a letter from President Anwar Sadat of Egypt delivered this morning by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alfred L. Atherton. The contents of the four-page letter were not disclosed but it was reportedly written in a friendly tone and concerned the current efforts to draft a joint declaration of principles by Israel and Egypt.

The letter was the first personal contact between Sadat and Begin since their Christmas Day meeting at Ismailia and led to speculation that it might lead to another meeting between the two men. But Begin, after conferring with Atherton this morning, said only that there was still a basis for continuing the present negotiations.

Atherton, who arrived here unexpectedly from Cairo last night, also met with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and was to meet with Attorney General Aharon Barak later today. He is scheduled to go to Amman Friday, presumably for another attempt to persuade Jordan to enter the Israeli-Egyptian peace process. Atherton is expected to return to Cairo next Tuesday with Begin’s reply to Sadat.

Begin and other Israelis have expressed hope in recent days that direct peace talks would be resumed with Egypt instead of the indirect contacts maintained with Atherton as intermediary. But Egyptian Foreign Minister Ibrahim Kaamel observed yesterday that the next move did not depend on Israel or Egypt but on the Americans.