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Soviets Try Madison Ave. Approach, Offer U.S. 'One More Chance' on Test Ban

August 21, 1986|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In a rare foray into U.S.-style public relations, the Soviet Embassy called a press conference Wednesday to extol Mikhail S. Gorbachev's latest nuclear test moratorium proposal and offer the Reagan Administration "one more chance" to join in the moratorium.

Victor F. Isakov, the embassy's minister-counselor, produced no new information in his paraphrasing of Gorbachev's Monday speech, carefully avoiding explanation of matters that the Soviet leader had left vague and driving home points on which Gorbachev was explicit.

Ornate Setting

But the press conference, in a decidedly un-proletarian meeting room ornamented with gilded plaster bas-reliefs and crystal chandeliers, gave Isakov a chance to tell Moscow's story before U.S. television cameras and newspaper reporters. Because Congress, President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz are out of town on vacation, many reporters were available to attend the Soviet event.

Speaking in precise English sentences, Isakov described the unilateral Soviet test moratorium, which Gorbachev extended to the end of this year, as a reasonable first step to move the world away "from nuclear self-destruction." As for Washington's negative response, he was, by turns, incredulous, disappointed and determined to keep trying.

"We hope this (U.S. rejection) is not the last word," Isakov said. "We give one more chance to the American leadership to carefully weigh all of the consequences that a continuation of the nuclear arms race leads to."

Gorbachev has also called on Reagan to agree to a total test ban "this year at the Soviet-American summit meeting."

Ensuring a Summit

Isakov said that, if U.S. and Soviet negotiators reach agreement on a nuclear test ban, a summit meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev this year would be ensured.

Does that mean that Gorbachev will not attend a summit this year unless there is a test ban agreement? a reporter asked.

"No," he replied. "We're saying that it is one of the possibilities, a very important one."

Nevertheless, he said, Moscow wants "something solid" to be ready for signature at a meeting. But, when he was asked if that was a "precondition," he replied: "Of course there are no preconditions, but it seems to me that the summit should be well prepared."

A few reporters tried to pin Isakov down on the question of whether there would be a summit this year--but had no success. Although Moscow has carefully avoided setting a date for the next summit, U.S. and Soviet officials have been meeting in a series of preliminary sessions.

'Regional Issues'

State Department spokesman Charles Redman said that a U.S. team headed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Michael H. Armacost will meet later this month with a high-level Soviet delegation to discuss "regional issues," a diplomatic term for Third World conflicts.

Unlike previous regional talks that were limited to a single geographic area, the Armacost talks will address regional issues worldwide from Afghanistan to Nicaragua and from El Salvador to Angola.

Redman said that those talks are intended to clarify issues before Shultz meets Sept. 19-20 in Washington with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze. Those discussions are, in turn, intended to lay the groundwork for a summit.

Isakov called the preliminary talks useful but complained that the United States was "not very helpful" in some of them.

But, unlike some Soviet officials of an earlier era, Isakov was personable and polite, even as he parried questions and glossed over issues he did not care to clarify.

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