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Kohl Has Encouraging Word for Reagan : Bonn Leader Backs 'Star Wars,' Sees Victory for Ruling Coalition

October 19, 1986|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl will arrive for an official visit to the United States on Monday with messages that President Reagan should be delighted to hear.

Kohl will tell the President that Bonn supports the Strategic Defense Initiative, Reagan's space-based missile defense program, and that he expects his governing center-right coalition to win a comfortable victory in next January's national election.

Kohl and Britain's Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are Reagan's staunchest European allies and Kohl, like Thatcher, appears to have no serious qualms over the space defense plan, popularly known as "Star Wars."

Kohl is urging the German public to beware of the current Soviet propaganda campaign to convince Europeans that Reagan's insistence on keeping SDI was the reason he was unable to reach an arms control agreement with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev at the summit in Iceland last weekend.

Expects Another Summit

The German chancellor believes there will be another meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev that will produce results, according to reliable sources. He also believes that spin-off developments from SDI technology will benefit West German industry, the sources say.

Kohl, in fact, thinks that Reagan's persistence in developing SDI, as well as the deployment of intermediate-range missiles to Europe since 1983, were key factors in bringing Gorbachev to Iceland to discuss arms control with the United States.

In his talks with Reagan, Kohl will encourage him to continue to pursue arms control agreements with the Soviets at Geneva, informed sources here said. He will emphasize East-West relations and give the President his views on the various subjects discussed in Iceland, including arms control, human rights and the Soviet economic situation.

Kohl also wants to bring up the subject of expanding cultural exchanges between the United States and West Germany, the sources say, since he would like to see more German students studying at prestigious U.S. universities.

Kohl also would like to build on the foundations that have been set up in the past 40 years, both in the United States and in West Germany, to improve relations between the two countries.

Faster Growth Urged

The subject of the German economy may be a sensitive one in Washington because U.S. officials, such as Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, have been urging the Germans to take action to stimulate economic growth.

The Bonn government has resisted doing so, however. It maintains that the problems in the overall economic situation of the Western industrialized countries stem largely from the United States' refusal, or inability, to reduce its massive budget deficit.

Of the idea of discussing the West German economy, Kohl has said: "I don't have a problem with the Americans. The Americans may have a problem with me."

The chancellor goes to Washington from a very strong position. He has become the unqualified leader of his party, the Christian Democratic Union, and he is expected to outdistance the opposition Social Democratic Party in the national election next January.

Less Political Friction

In addition, he seems to have reduced the usual frictions between the Christian Democrats and their sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, and its leader, Bavarian state premier Franz Josef Strauss.

Kohl believes that the Christian Democrats' partner in the governing coalition, the Free Democratic Party, will draw more than 5% of the vote, the minimum required to be seated in Parliament.

He is said to feel confident that the combination of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats will poll well over 50% of the vote, to continue in office.

Among the campaign issues Kohl cites as being in his favor are the inflation rate, which has been reduced to almost zero, a rise in real income of between 3% and 4.5% a year, and a steady decline in unemployment as the economic upswing continues.

Election Issue

Some observers say that Kohl is underestimating how effectively the opposition Social Democrats and the radical environmentalist political faction, the Greens, will be able to use the SDI issue. It now seems to be the topic that the two opposition parties will seize on in the election. They are expected to claim that if Reagan had renounced "Star Wars," arms control agreements would have been reached in Iceland and in the ongoing U.S.-Soviet negotiations at Geneva.

But Kohl, obviously, is not very concerned about the impending election. He tells his confidantes: "People don't see any reason for a change."

His confidence is reflected in new campaign posters that have been put up around major West German cities. They show a thumbs-up sign with the words: "Germany, Keep Going."

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