State Department Denies the U.S. is Changing Its Mideast Policy

The State Department denied today charges in Israel that the Reagan Administration is changing its Middle East policy by going beyond the parameters of the Camp David, process.

“We have reiterated on numerous occasions the President’s continuing dedication to Camp David and the autonomy process,” Deputy State Department spokesman Alan Romberg said. Asked specifically about the West Bank and Gaza, he said that situation “is to be addressed within the framework of Camp David.”

But Romberg noted that Secretary of State George Shultz has said publicly that within the Camp David framework, the Administration is considering a “variety of new ideas, what we ought to do, how we can best approach this very difficult problem of the Middle East peace process.”

Romberg refused to say whether any of these new ideas were contained in a letter from President Reagan to Israeli Premier Menachem Begin which was received by Begin yesterday. The Israeli Cabinet has called a special meeting for tomorrow to discuss the letter.

While Administration spokesmen have acknowledged the letter was sent, Romberg refused to comment on its content. Asked about the settlements, he noted the Administration has said that regardless of their legality, they are “an obstacle to the (peace) process.”

SEE LETTER REASSURING HUSSEIN

Some observers here see the Reagan letter as an attempt by the Administration to reassure King Hussein of Jordan following Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s repeated assertion while in Washington last week that there is no need for a Palestinian state since Jordan is the Palestinian state. Both the White House and State Department yesterday said they disagreed with this position.

But Romberg refused to say today whether the letter to Begin was really aimed at reassuring Hussein. He said it was part of the “continuing exchanges of messages” between Reagan and Begin.

The Administration’s main position may become clearer when Reagan goes, on television tonight to discuss his Mideast policy. Television network sources said they were approached for the possibility of clearing time for the speech which would come from California where the President is vacationing.

NEXT STORY