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Taking on Task of Disarmament : Arms Summit Sparks New Talk of Hopes and Fears

October 28, 1985|KATHLEEN HENDRIX | Times Staff Writer

Asked to sum up the long day of speeches and exchanges, Richard Saxon obligingly walked to the podium and said to the representatives of the Soviet Union and the United States, and their respective allies: "I find myself torn. I want to say to both sides, 'a plague on both your houses.' I see right and wrong on both sides."

Not perhaps the most predictable way to conclude a day dedicated to diplomacy and the exploration of the topic, "Disarmament, Development and Economic Conversion," but then Richard Saxon is no diplomat. He is a doctor and heads the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the American affiliate of the recent Nobel Peace Prize awardee, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

He is a man in earnest and, as his remarks indicated, he wants the Soviets and Americans to get on with the task of disarmament.

Wan Smiles Managed

Saturday had not been a laugh-filled occasion at USC's Mudd Hall of Philosophy, but the audience of some 200 people, about half of them USC students, half community people, many of the latter members of the World Federalist Assn. and the United Nations Assn., laughed in seeming agreement with Saxon's remark, and the diplomats in question managed wan smiles.

The panel of 11 men, most of them diplomats, represented both superpowers, the People's Republic of China, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic and the United Nations. The conference was chaired by Robert K. Woetzel, president of the Foundation for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court and of the International Criminal Law Commission, a U.N. affiliate.

Held in honor of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations, it was sponsored by the USC Student Press and International Student Assembly, Woetzel's foundation and the United Nations Assn.

It was the fourth such international conference in three years to be hosted at USC, Jonathon Woetzel, conference coordinator and son of Robert, said. A graduate student in political science at USC, he said it was the only conference "of this rank to be organized and funded by student organizations."

Glaring Omission

The high rank of the participants, he said, was also why the panelists were all male. He was not unaware of the criticism that some women in the audience were voicing at what was to some a glaring omission. He had heard it before, when efforts to find women to invite to the previous conferences had been to no avail.

"They're not there for us to invite," he said of the lack of high-ranking women in both the U.N.'s department of disarmament and in government missions.

The lack of much Third World participation, he said, was a different matter. The conferences usually were composed of equal representation from the Western, socialist and non-aligned groups, he said, but this time around, efforts to include Mexico, Brazil and Argentina had fallen through.

The day proceeded without much acrimony or passion. Diplomats read their speeches calmly and soberly. They disagreed and accused in the same manner, acting it seemed not so much out of boredom as familiarity.

What did provide some spark and urgency was the upcoming November summit meeting in Geneva of President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. All of them clearly attached great importance to the meeting, and even revealed something of a "last chance" hope and fear.

The summit, in fact, the senior Woetzel remarked later, had been the impetus for the conference.

"Whenever there's a summit conference or a major meeting of governments, we do a 'pre-summit,' " Woetzel explained of the four USC gatherings. "We bring in the experts. Government experts like to explore the proposals, explore different ideas in a less formal setting than an official conference. It's not just consciousness-raising for the public."

Three Proposals

He said Saturday's conference had fulfilled that function, and cited as an example the three proposals offered by Fred Casmir, a professor at Pepperdine and special adviser to the U.S. government, and former U.S. representative to UNESCO.

Saying that he was not there to present the official views of the U.S. government, Casmir had recommended that all multiple warhead missiles be reduced over a specified short period of time, that both sides gradually develop defense systems allowing protection against nuclear attack from any country, and that the number of launchers to deliver nuclear warheads, as well as nuclear warheads themselves, be reduced up to 80% or 90%.

He had earlier referred indirectly to current Soviet proposals for a 50% reduction of nuclear arsenals as mainly a propaganda and public relations campaign. He had also asserted that the Soviet Union was currently engaged in ongoing research and development of space-based offensive and defensive weapons systems.

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