YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Reagan Eager for a Summit, Mulroney Told

March 19, 1985|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Staff Writer

QUEBEC CITY — President Reagan privately told Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Monday that he is eager for an immediate summit conference with new Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and declared, "The ball is in their court."

An hour later, however, the President publicly denounced the Kremlin in the strongest language he has used since Gorbachev's accession to power last Monday, accusing the Soviets of treaty abuses, global aggression and human rights violations.

In a luncheon speech to Canadian federal and provincial leaders, Reagan renewed charges that the Soviets violated the Yalta accord calling for free elections in Europe after World War II, the Geneva Convention banning use of chemical weapons, the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty and the Helsinki agreement to respect human rights.

'Consistency His Hallmark'

"People who were looking for Ronald Reagan to change his view of the Soviet Union simply because they have a new leader don't know him very well," said a White House official who declined to be identified. "Consistency is his hallmark."

However, another American official, reporting to journalists on Reagan's private meeting with Mulroney, said the President declared he is "at this point . . . prepared" to hold a substantive summit meeting with Gorbachev.

Offering the President's reasons for holding a summit, the official said, "This is a potentially important moment in the U.S.-Soviet relationship." He pointed out that there are numerous talks under way or pending with the Soviets involving not only arms but human rights and trade.

"It's not clear we would be able to agree (on) any issues, but there would be a very important exchange on a range of problems" if the two leaders were to meet, the official added.

The adviser said, however, that Reagan still has not received a reply from Gorbachev to the overture he made last week, when Vice President George Bush, attending the Moscow funeral of Soviet President Konstantin U. Chernenko, delivered a personal letter from the President to Gorbachev. The White House confirmed Monday that Reagan had indeed proposed a meeting with Gorbachev in that letter.

After Reagan's speech, he and Mulroney concluded their two days of meetings in a ceremony at the old Citadel, a fort built high above the St. Lawrence River in the 19th Century to ward off an expected American attack. They signed agreements and issued joint declarations aimed at demonstrating increased cooperation between their two governments.

The proclamations, carefully negotiated and drafted by aides long before the two leaders ever arrived in this 377-year-old French-speaking city, included:

--An agreement to modernize the aging Distant Early Warning (DEW) radar system at a cost of $1.3 billion, to be shared 60% by the United States and 40% by Canada. Thirty-one obsolete Arctic radar stations will be replaced by at least 52 new installations capable of detecting low-flying Soviet bombers and ground-hugging cruise missiles.

--A joint proclamation pledging the two governments to fight trade protectionism in each country and to open markets to the other's goods.

--Ratification of a Pacific salmon treaty, recently approved by the U.S. Senate, that took 15 years to negotiate.

--Signing of a mutual legal assistance pact providing for cooperation in investigating serious crimes.

On Sunday, Reagan and Mulroney defused the one most divisive issue between their governments by appointing special envoys to study the problem of acid rain pollution and to report within a year.

The euphoria of this painstakingly planned summit, which has been designed to point up agreement between the two governments, was interrupted when officials of both sides felt compelled to douse a potential political furor over remarks by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

The defense secretary, in an interview on Canadian television, was asked about the possibility of ultimately deploying U.S. missiles in Canada capable of shooting down Soviet cruise missiles.

"Some might be here, some might be in the United States, some might be at sea," Weinberger said. Although Canada has conducted some tests of its own air-to-air missiles, there have been no ground-based missiles on Canadian soil since the early 1960s, when controversy over the weapons helped bring down the government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

Canadian External Relations Secretary Joe Clark emphasized to reporters after Weinberger's remarks that he has "no reason to believe it might be necessary" to base U.S. missiles in Canada.

The U.S. official who briefed reporters insisted that "there is absolutely no program, plan or decision to ask the Canadian government to base air-defense launchers on their territory."

In his speech, Reagan seemed to be urging Canadians to become more wary of the Soviets and to be willing to play a larger role in North America's defense.

"Let us always remain idealists but never be blind to history," the President admonished. "We cannot look the other way when treaties are violated, human beings persecuted, religions banned and entire democracies crushed.

"As much as we may hope for greater stability through arms control, we must remember that the Soviet record of compliance with past agreements has been poor."

Los Angeles Times Articles