Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would accept Palestinians at a Geneva peace conference who come not as representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization but as members of a general Arab delegation, the House majority leader said yesterday.
Rep. Jim Wright (D-Tex.) made the comment at a news conference on the 12-day trip his 15-member congressional delegation took to Spain, Portugal, Egypt, and Israel.
He said that during a visit with Sadat on Nov. 15 the group asked whether the Egyptian leader would be amendable to Palestinian representation at Geneva that would not include PLO members as such but PLO members as part (f a pan-Arab delegation.
Wright quoted Sadat's response as "marvelous, marvelous, I think that's a wonderful idea."
The comment is considered significant because it conforms to the Israeli position on how Palestinians should be represented at a peace conference on the Middle East. The basic Arab position is that the PLO is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
Sadat's degree of flexibility on the issue has not been spelled out, but he has said the Arabs and Israelis should stop quibbling over procedure in getting to the peace tale and he did not mention the PLO in his speech to the Israeli Knesset on Sunday.
Wright also said the congressional delegation had discussed with Sadat the possibility of a Palestinian entity "in federation or confederation with Jordan." An aide to Wright said later that Sadat himself used the words "federation or confederation" and held open the possibility that he would favor that kind of union.
The majority leader said the question of a Palestinian homeland linked to Jordan has not been accepted by Israel, but he added that it would be "quite substantially less offensive to the Israelis" than an entirely independent state.
Wright said the majors of some communities on the West Bank of the Jordan River indicated they were willing to "have an association with Jordan." Such an entity would exist without military forces and "without the ability to pose a threat to Israel," he said.
The delegation, which met with Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin Nov. 17 and stayed on in Jerusalem to hear Sadat's address to the parliament Sunday, could not determine what concessions Israel might make.
Rep. James J. Howard (D-N.J.), a member of the delegation, said he thinks some kind of Palestinian entity "is something they [the Israelis] could live with."
He said the group received a "slight inkling" of such acceptance in talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and others.
Meanwhile, three members of the House Armed Services Committee said yesterday that while they were in the Middle East they relayed a message from Begin inviting Sadat to Israel.
The three-chairman Melvin Price (D-Ill.), Marjorie S. Holt (R-Md.) and Lucien N. Nedzi (D-Mich.) - described in separate interviews their committee's meetings with both leaders during a 16-day trip that ended Tuesday.
Eleven members of the committee met with Begin Nov. 10, the day after Sadat told the Egyptian parliament he was so determined to achieve peace that "I am ready to go to the Israeli parliament itself and discuss it with them."
Holt quoted Begin as saying of Sadat's offer, "I think this is a great idea. I would like you to take an invitation to Sadat."
The group visited the Egyptian leader two days later at his home, and a transcript of his remarks shows he was concerned because he did not have an official invitation at that point and was not sure he would be welcome. But Wright, Holt and Nedzi said they felt then that he would go. Begin extended the official invitation Nov. 15.