President Carter will meet Friday at the White House with Gen. Omar Torrijos, the military leader of Panama, it was announced yesterday.
Torrijos will be in Washington enroute to Panama from a three-week trip to the Middle East and Europe. No details about his planned meeting with the President were disclosed, except that it will center on the pending Panama Canal treaties and a dispute over United State's rights to defend the canal after the year 2000.
The treaties, signed last month when Torrijos was last in Washington, would turn over control of the canal to Panama by the year 2000. The Carter administration contends the treaties would also guarantee the United States a unilateral right to defend the canal indefinitely, but this has been disputed by some Panamanian officials.
On Tuesday, Carter met with an influential group of senators, who told him bluntly that unless this and other points are clarified there is no chance of Senate approval of the treaties.
White House officials have been conceding for weeks in private that there is little or no chance the treaties will be approved this year.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill yesterday, the debate over the treaties continued. The widow of a Panamanian journalist who burned himself to death last month to protest the practices of the Torrijos regime told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval of the treaties would be "bad for the United States and bad for Panama."
Marie Aragon, whose husband, Leopoldo, was exiled from Panama because he wrote stories critical of the government, said the treaties should be rejected because of Panama's human rights record.
However spokesmen for the American Jewish Congress, the National Council of Churches and other religious groups urged approval of the treaties as just and fair.
At the same time, the Senate Rules Committed was split over a plan, backed by the Democratic and Republican leaderships, to televise the canal treaties debate. The committee failed to agree on how such telecasts should be handled.