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Two Presidents See 'Eye to Eye' on Arms Control

July 05, 1986|ELEANOR CLIFT | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — President Reagan and French President Francois Mitterrand "see eye to eye" on all the major aspects of Soviet relations, including arms control, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said Friday.

The two leaders met for lunch on Governors Island in New York Harbor in the midst of the Independence Day celebration honoring the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty, now sparkling after its $66-million renovation.

Reagan told the French president that he believes the Soviets "may be more serious than ever before in working out an agreement" on arms control, Speakes said.

Will Meet With Gorbachev

Mitterrand travels to Moscow Monday to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Reagan told reporters that he would not ask the French president to carry a message to the Soviet leader.

"I don't think that would be appropriate to impose on him," Reagan said of his French counterpart. "He has his own relationship with other countries."

But the Administration clearly expects Mitterrand to reflect Reagan's optimism about recent developments on the arms-control front when he meets Gorbachev.

"Certainly we would hope that President Mitterrand would describe to Mr. Gorbachev that we are serious," said Speakes, adding that Mitterrand promised Reagan that he would get back to him with his impressions about the meeting with Gorbachev.

Speakes conceded under questioning that Mitterrand still has reservations about Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly known as "Star Wars," but the emphasis here Friday was on unity and shared goals.

According to Speakes, Mitterrand did not express doubts when Reagan, in the meeting, underscored his longstanding commitment to the "Star Wars" space defense system "not as a bargaining chip, but as the most outstanding hope of the century."

Areas of Agreement

Mitterrand also chose not to make an issue of his opposition to Reagan's planned scuttling of the 1979 second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Instead, the luncheon focused on areas of substantive agreement and the shared spirit of the patriotic occasion.

In recent weeks, Reagan has said that a series of fresh proposals from the Soviet Union represents a possible "turning point" in the superpower relationship. And, after months of delay, it appears that the Soviets may be prepared to proceed with planning for a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in Washington, most likely in November.

The Administration repeatedly has characterized the Soviet proposals as "serious," and is in the process of drafting a reply to a lengthy letter from Gorbachev to Reagan that was delivered last month.

Reagan and Mitterrand applauded at their lunch when dessert was brought out. It was three tiers of sorbet surrounded by fresh fruit and topped by a chocolate Statue of Liberty.

The two leaders toasted American independence and Franco-American relations.

'May It Last Two Centuries'

"To our friendship of 200 years," Reagan said. "May it last two centuries more." Mitterrand, normally stiff and reserved in diplomatic settings, responded enthusiastically: "Long live the Fourth of July."

Reagan also received an elaborate deed to Lady Liberty, the 100-year-old French gift to America, from Mitterrand. The deed ceremony re-created the 1884 presentation in Paris.

The lighthearted mood of the lunch carried over to other issues. When reporters asked Reagan how he was planning to resolve the differences between his secretaries of state and defense over how to proceed on arms control, the President reminded reporters that the two men are "my right and my left hand. I would be lost without either one of them."

The remark drew laughter from the presidential party, including Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger.

Earlier in the day, Reagan and Mitterrand were given a first-day issue of a 22-cent "liberty" stamp.

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