President Carter came back to what, for Plains, was a tumultuous homecoming today, and confirmed that the United States has been carrying on "private negotiations" with Cuba.
"I'm not prepared now to make any announcements," the President said. ". . . I don't see any prospects immediately in the future, within the next number of months, of full diplomatic recognition, which would involve in the exchange of ambassadors.
"But we have made, I think, good progress, primarily as a result of negotiations and discussions on the part of Mr. Todman . . ."
Assistant Secretary of State Terence Todman said Monday, during a with Rosalynn Carter in Jamaica, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] United States proposed [WORD ILLEGIBLE] diplomats [TEXT ILLEGIBLE] again his feeling that "we will have a lot of differences between us," said Cuba's inclination to send military troops and advisers to Africa ". . . is a destabilizing factor." He also mentioned as a problem "the large number of political prisoners' in Cuba.
"But I have been encouraged, he said. ". . . I believe there is an inclination on the part of the American people to continue to move toward full friendship with Cuba, and I have that as my ultimate goal. But I can't report any specific additional progress at this point."
The President also said he has communicated indirectly with Cuban President Fidel Castro through State Department representatives. ". . . I've sent him my best wishes for a successful conclusion of our negotiations . . . and he responded accordingly."
Carter made his remarks in a brief news conference following his arrival from five days on St. Simon's Island off the Georgia coast and an hour-long walk down the block-long main street of Plains. He was to return to Washington tonight.
He shook hands with several hundred tourists and residents who were waiting under a scorching sun, talked with his brother, Billy, for half an hour and with his cousin, Hugh, for about 15 minutes. Much of the time he was barely visible in the crush of well-wishers and reporters as he inched his way along.
After his handshaking tour, Carter went to the old Plains railroad depot - his campaign headquarters here and now a sourvenir stand and photographic mecca for tourists - where he held the news conference.
He said that despite the changes his fame has brought to his town of 600, he is "very pleased at the way the town has been kept as it was."
"It's almost more than 600 people can do to handle literally thousands and thousands of tourists and still be friendly and hospitable and preserve the basic nature of this tiny community.
"But I think they've done an excellent job," he said. "I hope that when I'm out of my present position as President to come back home to Plains, that it'll still be just like this. I'm very proud of it."
The President said he thought that the turmoil faced by the First Baptist Church of Plains, which has fired the minister it had when Carter was living here, ". . . is just one of those things that has been brought on my church by publicity surrounding my presence . . . I feel responsible for it in a way . . . but I believe that God will take care of it."
He said there is "still some misunderstanding, even some animosities," in the church, "unfortunately."
At another point he said, "I'm still a farmer at heart, and I miss the planting season and the crops being produced . . . it's just a basic part of my life . . . the community, the attitudes, the closeness, the sharing of a common life in a small group of people . . . I feel at home when I'm here."
Carter took time to vote in a county election having to do with tax matters. He planned to gather wild plums on "one of our farms," and to "just look at our farms. We've had a terrible drought here, and this is probably one of the worst we've ever had at this time of year."