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Gorbachev Starting Trip to Romania, East Berlin

May 25, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev departs today on a three-day visit to Romania, the East Bloc Communist nation thought to be the least susceptible to his ideas of glasnost, or openness.

It is the only Warsaw Pact nation that Gorbachev has not yet visited since becoming Soviet leader.

From Bucharest, the Romanian capital, Gorbachev will go to East Berlin on Wednesday for a meeting of the Warsaw Pact nations.

Western diplomats here attribute no special importance to the Romanian visit--the first by a Soviet leader since the late Leonid I. Brezhnev's in 1976.

However, these specialists suggest that Gorbachev intends to mend some fences with Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu, who has not taken kindly to suggestions that his country follow the Soviet lead in introducing reform and liberalization.

Decline in Economy

In particular, the Romanian economy still remains highly centralized and this may be one reason for its decline in recent years.

According to reports from Bucharest, the Romanians are planning a relatively low-key reception for Gorbachev. There has been little advance display of flags and portraits that usually herald a Soviet leader's visit. The media also has been slow in publicizing the trip.

The government also appears intent on minimizing foreign coverage of the visit. Authorities denied entry Sunday to three Western journalists who arrived in Bucharest to cover the event, Western diplomats said, according to a Reuters report.

They said Robin Gedye of the London Daily Telegraph, Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post and David Storey of Reuters were held at the airport because they had no visas. They were told to leave on the next available flight.

Under normal procedures, Westerners traveling to Romania, including journalists, can obtain a visa at the border or at the airport. An Austrian newsman, Gustav Chalupa of Austrian Radio, was also denied admittance at first, but was allowed to enter after the intervention of the Austrian ambassador, Reuters reported.

British and American diplomats were at the airport investigating the matter, the diplomats said.

Kept Distance from Moscow

Ceausescu has ruled his country with an iron hand for the past 22 years and has kept a certain distance from Moscow--for instance, in not participating in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, in not allowing Warsaw Pact military exercises on Romanian territory, and in maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel.

Ceausescu has been the subject of adulation by the government press and television, although Romania's standard of living has fallen during his rule.

In contrast, Gorbachev has warned repeatedly against the "cult of personality" that has tended to idealize past Communist leaders.

Gorbachev is scheduled to hold a series of talks with the Romanian president, and he will also address the Romanian Parliament on Tuesday.

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