Former President Jimmy Carter used his one-week visit to Egypt to underline his criticism of the Reagan Mideast policy. Speaking to reporters at Cairo airport before his departure for Israel, Mr. Carter confirmed that he had met members of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Egypt. The former President added that he intended to meet other Palestinians during his visits to Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
''Some of them have been and will be, I am sure, members of the PLO,'' Mr. Carter said.
The former President, who stressed that he is not representing the United States during his current swing through the Mideast, refused to reveal the identity of his Palestinian interlocutors.
But Palestinians in the Egyptian capital say that two senior PLO officials flew to Luxor in upper Egypt last week to meet Carter.
The two Palestinians - Ahmed Sidki Dajani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, and Nabil Shaath, a Cairo-based Palestinian businessman who serves as a foreign policy adviser to PLO chief Yasser Arafat - are well-known moderates within the Palestinian movement.
Mr. Carter said that the Reagan Middle East peace plan and the current discussion on the formation of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation which would participate in future Middle East peace negotiations were not inconsistent with the Camp David agreements.
But Mr. Carter indicated that he was unhappy with the US refusal to negotiate or recognize the PLO as long as the Palestinians did not recognize Israel. This was a pledge former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made to Israel in 1975 which subsequent administrations have honored.
The former President said that he had tried hard during his presidency to involve the PLO in Middle East peace negotiations. But disagreements between Syria and Israel had prevented the PLO from participating in the planned Geneva peace conference.
The Camp David agreements - which resulted from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem in November 1977 - provide, however, for representation of the Palestinians in Middle East peace negotiation, Mr. Carter said.
In a further indication of his doubts about US policy toward the PLO, Mr. Carter made a distinction between US contacts with the PLO and US recognition or official US negotiations with the organization.
''As a matter of fact,'' the former President said, ''I don't think there is anything in the original Kissinger agreement that would prevent even officials of our government from talking to members of the PLO. The question is whether the PLO is recognized officially and whether there are official negotiations. Those terms of the agreement, which may or may not have been well-advised at the time, have never been violated so far as I know.''
Asked if he had felt during his presidency that US contacts with the PLO would have been valuable, Mr. Carter paused to think before saying: ''Yes, I often felt that they would be.''
During Mr. Carter's term as President, Andrew Young, then US delegate to the United Nations, resigned under pressure because Mr. Young held an unauthorized meeting with the PLO's UN observer.