President Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat ended their apparent rift over a Middle East settlement today with a general agreement on a approaches to peace negotiations, including the Palestinian question.
After a 45-minute meeting in the desert, Carter endorsed a carefully worded formula that satisfied the Egyptian leader without changing the substance of previously announced U.S. position on the issue.
Sadat told reporters that his views were "identical" to the President's.
In contrast to his extemporaneous remarks last week that provoked a furor in the Arab world, Carter today read a prepared statement from note cards. It was obviously drafted to undo the damages and embarrassment to Sadat caused by Carter's public opposition to an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
A peace settlement, Carter said, "must recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and enable the Palestinians to participate in the determination of their own future."
In Israel, Prime Minister Menahem Begin also expressed satisfaction. Carter's formulation carefully skirted around the question of Palestinian self-determination, which Israelis regard as tantamount to the endorsement of an independent Palestinian state - a prospect that Begin again rejected today as a "moral danger to Israel."
American officials traveling with the President said later that Carter's carefully chosen words - touching on the single most sensitive issue in the Middle East peace negotiations - were a deliberate attempt to "move the (peace) process forward" by publicly raising the issue of what role the Palestinians should play in deciding West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The officials nevertheless rejected suggestions that Carter's comments represented a shift in American policy or a move toward endorsement of Arab demands for an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank.
It was Sadat who said that the two leaders had agreed "upon certain steps to keep the momentum of the peace process" going, but what those steps might be remained one of the many unanswered questions following the meeting.
En route to Paris from Aswan, a senior administration official, asked about these unspecified steps, would say only that " both agreed to the [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]