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Reagan Reports Gain in Talks on Strategic Arms

May 05, 1987|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan, who has expressed optimism about the prospects for an intermediate-range arms control agreement with the Soviet Union, said Monday that "great progress" also has been made in the effort to reduce long-range weaponry.

In a written statement before the opening today of a new round of Geneva arms talks on strategic and space weapons, Reagan indicated that the United States will make new proposals on limiting long-range nuclear weapons and space defenses.

An agreement on long-range weapons "is within our grasp, even this year, if the Soviets are prepared to resolve the remaining outstanding issues," he said.

'Star Wars' Obstacle

The superpowers appeared on the verge of such progress at the Reykjavik summit last October, only to stumble over the obstacle posed by space weapons. The Soviet Union has sought limits on the development of such weapons, and Reagan has insisted that the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars" program, intended to develop space-based missile defenses, be allowed to continue.

Reagan said the new U.S. proposals will respond to Soviet concerns expressed since his meeting in Iceland with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Both sides have agreed to reduce offensive weapons to 1,600 delivery systems carrying 6,000 warheads--a cut of about 50%--but they disagree on how these numbers would be allotted among land-based and sea-based weapons and bombers. Reagan said that establishing such sublimits is among the most important issues "for the purpose of ensuring strategic stability." The United States has accused the Soviet Union of backtracking in this area since the Reykjavik meeting.

In Iceland, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to accomplish the reduction over five years. In Moscow last month, Secretary of State George P. Shultz carried instructions from Reagan to stretch the five-year cutback time to seven years.

With the emphasis on medium-range weapons in Europe and indications that the United States and Soviet Union are narrowing their differences on these weapons, little has been said by Administration officials in recent weeks about the long-range missiles and bombers that are considered more militarily threatening than the other weapons.

In his statement, Reagan said that the new U.S. proposals would commit both nations not to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty until 1994. But he made no reference to whether the Administration would continue to insist that, according to its interpretation of the pact, more aggressive research and testing of "Star Wars" components would be permitted in space as well as on Earth.

According to the President, when the talks on long-range and space weapons resume in Geneva, the U.S. negotiators will introduce U.S. proposals raised last month in Moscow when Shultz reviewed arms control issues with Gorbachev.

In Geneva, meanwhile, the chief Soviet delegate predicted that an intermediate-range weapons agreement is within reach. The latest round of talks on medium-range nuclear arms began about two weeks ago.

The Soviet official, Yuli M. Vorontsov, and his U.S. counterpart, Max M. Kampelman, arrived in the Swiss city Monday for the start of the eighth round of talks on long-range, or strategic, nuclear weaponry and space defenses.

'A Full-Fledged Treaty'

Vorontsov told reporters that he expects "a treaty, a full-fledged treaty, on medium-range missiles." But Kampelman said that "much hard and painstaking work" remains and that "important issues have still to be resolved."

Reagan, in his statement, said that the Soviets "have yet to provide the all-important details which are essential to working out an effective verification regime." This refers to the complicated procedures to make sure that each side is adhering to the terms of an arms control agreement.

Reagan also objected to "Soviet efforts to include the missiles of any country other than" the United States and the Soviet Union in a U.S.-Soviet agreement. In Geneva last Tuesday, the Soviets added a new element to the arms talks by demanding the removal of U.S. nuclear warheads from short-range missiles owned by West Germany.

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