Sen. Kennedy (D-Mass.) will travel to the Soviet Union next week to attend an international health conference and possibly meet with top Soviet leaders.
Kennedy's office confirmed yesterday that the senator will attend the first International Conference on Primary Health Care in Alma Ata from Tuesday through Thursday.
However, negotiations reportedly also are under way to arrange a meeting between Kennedy and top Soviet officials, possibly even Chairman Leonid I. Brezhnev.
A spokesman for Kennedy declined to comment on any Kennedy activities in Russia besides his presence at the health conference. However, the spokesman said: "His trip is open-ended. He doesn't have to return after the 7th. There may be other meetings."
Kennedy was an outspoken critic of the recent trials of Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union. An aide indicated any talks Kennedy has with Soviet officials could include consideration of alleged human rights abuses.
Earlier this year, Kennedy traveled to the Far East to meet with lwaders of Japan and the People's Republic of China, and later in the year was an official U.S. observer at the disarmanent talks in Geneva.
Those foreign travels and activities combined with a planned Kennedy speaking appearance in New Hampshire (site of the first presidential primary) and a much-publicized split on national health insurance with the Carter administration has heightened conjecture on Kennedy's intentions for 1980.
Kennedy will be joined by Jan Kalicki, his foreign policy adviser, and Senate health and scientific research subcommittee staff director Lawrence Horowitz on the trip, which is being paid for out of subcommittee funds.
Dr. Julius Richmond, an assistant secretary in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, will head the official U.S. delegation to the conference sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The conference is expected to attract representatives from more than 100 nations.