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Special to the JTA Saunders Says He Was Speaking for Carter During His Mideast Trip

Harold Saunders, Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East and South Asian Affairs, told Jewish leaders here yesterday at a closed off-the-record meeting that the attacks against him by Israel following his visit to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank were entirely unjustified, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned.

In the two-hour meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Saunders emphasized that his entire trip was undertaken on behalf of President Carter and that he was not speaking for himself but for Carter when he met with Arab and Palestinian leaders.

WAS RESTATING U.S. POLICY

He stressed repeatedly that what he told these officials was merely to restate American policy in the Mideast and that his expressions in no way contradicted the agreements reached between Israel and Egypt at the Camp David summit Saunders asserted that the statements on the future of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which caused a furor in Israel, represented long-standing U.S. policy and had the official approval of Carter.

During his meeting with Premier Menachem Begin of Israel and other Israeli leaders, Saunders was rebuked for having told King Hussein of Jordan, Saudi officials and West Bank personalities that the U.S. continues to view as illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank and for saying that the U.S. did not recognize Israel’s “annexation” of East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War and East Jerusalem should therefore be returned to Arab sovereignty.

The JTA learned that an invitation to Saunders to meet with the Presidents Conference had been extended last July by Theodore Mann, Conference chairman, when they were together in Israel during the visit there by Vice President Walter Mondale. Saunders accepted the invitation and was due to address the Presidents Conference two weeks ago but had to cancel to undertake his Mideast visit.

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