Carter Willing to Talk with the PLO if It Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist

The State Department said today that President Carter “has said he would be willing to talk with the PLO” if it recognized Israel’s right to exist. The Department’s chief spokesman, Hodding Carter, made that assertion in response to reporters’ questions as to whether the U.S. would deal directly with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Reiterating that the U.S. stands firmly behind United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, Carter stressed that the U.S. is trying to bring the Palestinians into the current peace negotiating process. He said all parties to this process can bring in their own participants but if one participant does not wish to deal directly with another, it would not have to.

“We continue to hope,” the State Department spokesman said, “that the PLO will change its firmly held position and concede and grant Israel’s right to exist in which case the President has said he would be willing to talk with the PLO There is no assumption that anybody else will be willing.” He added, “Our efforts are aimed specifically at the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to indicate we want them to be participants as called for in the peace treaty.”

According to a report in The New York Times today, President Carter, in a wide-ranging interview, likened the Palestinian issue to the “civil rights movement here in the United States,” depicting it as a highly emotional issue and a matter of rights. The State Department spokesman had no comment on The Times’ story (See separate story.)

POSTPONE SALE OF TANKS TO JORDAN

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, Harold Saunders, appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning to answer questions about the pending sale of 300 M-60 tanks to Jordan. The Administration has postponed the sale for six weeks to allow the Congress more time to examine the deal which has aroused criticism in Israel. By law. Congress must have 30 days to consider any major overseas weapons sale. If, after that period, the sale is not vetoed by either House, it goes through automatically.

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