Begin Responds to Sadat’s Letter; Says Spirit of the Letters Shows Both Sides Want to Resume Negotia

Premier Menachem Begin has written a personal letter to President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in reply to the letter he received from Sadat last Thursday. It was delivered to a U.S. Embassy official this evening, presumably to be telexed to Assistant Secretary of State Alfred L. Atherton who flew from Amman, Jordan, to Cairo tonight and is due to meet with Sadat tomorrow.

The content of the Begin-Sadat exchange has been kept secret. Begin told newsmen, however, that the “spirit” of the letters shows that both sides want to renew direct contacts “within the framework of the political and military committees.” Begin reportedly drafted his letter after consultations with several senior Cabinet ministers. It was discussed at today’s Cabinet meeting where the ministers reportedly reached certain “conclusions” after a political discussion that lasted over two hours. The “conclusions” were not disclosed.

Begin told reporter afterwards that he wanted President Carter, with whom he meets in Washington next week, to be the first to hear of these “conclusions.” He said, however, that they did not mean Israel was changing the terms of its original peace proposals for Sinai and the West Bank “for the present.” Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor said no votes were taken at today’s session, indicating that no controversial issues were brought up.

Atherton is expected back in Israel on Tuesday. It is expected to be his last visit in the current round of shuttle diplomacy before he returns to Washington for the Carter-Begin meetings.

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