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U.S. Steers Middle Course Between Israel Egypt on the Jerusalem Law

The United States today thought to steer a middle course between Israel’s Jerusalem law and Egypt’s contention that it was an obstacle to peace, and continued to suggest that the law should not block continuation of the West Bank-Gaza autonomy negotiations.

“I am not going to choose sides in a situation like this,” the State Department chief spokesman, John Trattner, said. “We hope and expect the talks to go forward.” He emphasized, “Right now we are watching and waiting,” an collusion to Israel’s pending response to President Anwar Sadat’s letter to Premier Menachem Begin in which he alleged a law is “an obstacle” to the negotiations.

Indicating that the allegations by Sadat are not a threat to Egypt’s suspension of the talks, as it had done last May, Trattner noted that Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali had said Egypt had not suspended the talks but rather delayed the opening of ministerial talks that had been scheduled today in Alexandria.

“We have made clear to Egypt we want the autonomy talks to continue, and, of course, the Israelis know that also,” Trattner said. When asked if the U.S. is seeking to influence Sadat, he said “We are just where we were insofar as the status of the talks are concerned, but we are waiting for the other two parties to work out this difficulty.”

Trattner seemed to agree with the Egyptian criticism of the Jerusalem law. Reiterating that it is “unhelpful,” he again referred to it as “a unilateral action” to try to affect the status of Jerusalem “outside the framework of negotiations.” But, he said, “We don’t see it as an obstacle” to the talks. “We are making it clear to both sides we hope and expect these talks to go forward.”

Insofar as he knew, Trattner said, President Carter received a copy of Sadat’s letter to Begin but no other message. He also said “plans are not changed” for U.S. special negotiator Sol Linowitz to go to Cairo about Aug. 15 to resume personal negotiations with Ali and his Israeli counterpart, Interior Minister Yosef Burg. He emphasized, “We don’t intend to make a reply to the Sadat letter,” and he declined to define the difference between “delay” and “suspension.”

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