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Reagan Apparently Mixes Up Percentages in Arms Offers

November 20, 1986|ROBERT C. TOTH | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan said Wednesday that he remains optimistic that Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev will yet visit Washington during his term, and he asserted that "all agreements" tentatively reached at the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland are "on the table now with our arms negotiators in Geneva."

But, at his news conference, the President appeared to have erred on the key points of the agreement that was reached last month, illustrating once again the complexity of the nuclear arms issues, and potentially fueling the criticism by some that he has yet to become totally familiar with them.

Specifically, Reagan said that he and Gorbachev reached agreement "on the desirability to eliminate all strategic nuclear missiles in a five-year period." In fact, by all accounts, the fundamental agreement was to reduce the numbers of all strategic offensive weapons, bombers as well as missiles, by 50% over five years, not by 100%.

Beyond that, the United States proposed eliminating all ballistic missiles, and the Soviets called for eliminating all strategic weapons, which would include long-range bombers, over the following five years. Gorbachev rejected the U.S. proposal, but Reagan appears to have endorsed the Soviet idea, at least briefly.

The United States subsequently sought to back away both from Reagan's interest in the Soviet offer and from Reagan's own proposal to eliminate all missiles over 10 years, in the face of protests that a full phase-out would not leave the U.S. and its allies sufficiently protected from the Soviet Union's superior conventional forces.

At Geneva, the formal U.S. proposal introduced after Reykjavik included only the U.S.-Soviet agreement to cut all strategic offensive weapons in half in five years, although Reagan contended Wednesday that "all agreements" from Iceland were put on the table there.

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