UNITED NATIONS — Three days after announcing an "agreement in principle" to conclude a treaty with the Soviet Union to eliminate the superpowers' intermediate-range nuclear weapons, President Reagan said Monday that the United States will seek broader arms reductions.
However, he held out little chance that he would retreat from his goal of setting in motion a space-based defense against long-range missiles.
Despite his upbeat assessment of the prospects for greater arms control, the President took a hard line with the Soviet Union, criticizing its behavior in Nicaragua and Afghanistan and its role in the Persian Gulf, and making it clear--albeit in less-harsh rhetoric than he generally reserves for such topics--that he has not relaxed his anti-Soviet outlook.
The President made his remarks in a tough speech to the U.N. General Assembly, in which he also spelled out specific steps that the Sandinista leaders of Nicaragua must take to bring about an end to U.S. support for the contras.
With President Ali Khamenei of Iran scheduled to address the same body today, Reagan said that Iran's acceptance of the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war would be a "major breakthrough." If Iran rejects the cease-fire, "the council has no choice but rapidly to adopt enforcement measures," Reagan said.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz said later that the United States would push for additional action by the Security Council if Iran continues to ignore the council's cease-fire call. But he gave no indication of how soon Washington might move.
"There is still a firm desire to have the U.N. do everything possible to bring this war to an end," Shultz said. "Clearly if there is no ability to come to grips with it, especially in the present circumstances, we'll want to move on."
He said that if Khamenei gives an equivocal answer in his U.N. speech, "obviously that isn't satisfactory."
In his speech, the President singled out the Soviet Union for criticism in his remarks on the Iran-Iraq War, entering its eighth year today.
"They made the false accusation that somehow the United States, rather than the war itself, is the source of tension in the gulf," Reagan said. "Such statements are not helpful. They divert attention from the challenge facing us all--a just end to the war."
Reagan maintained that the U.S. naval force in the Persian Gulf region, which is escorting Kuwaiti tankers through the dangerous entrance to the gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and in the gulf itself, "does not favor one side or the other."
Kuwait is allied with Iraq and has sought U.S. protection against Iranian attacks on its vessels.
The deployment of approximately 40 U.S. warships in the gulf and Arabian Sea, Reagan said, "is a response to heightened tensions and followed consultations with our friends in the region. When the tension diminishes, so will our presence."
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, with whom Reagan met twice last week, remained impassive throughout the President's 31-minute speech. But as Reagan delivered his remarks about the Soviets and the Persian Gulf, the white-haired foreign minister, sitting erect, scribbled notes on a white pad, then carefully replaced his pen in its cap and folded his hands on his lap.
Indeed, none of the representatives of the 159 members of the United Nations applauded during Reagan's speech, and the President was given only a 10-second round of applause when he finished.
The Iranian delegation, given seats next to Iraq's representatives, was absent, as was the delegation from Afghanistan, whose assigned seats are in the second row directly in front of the speaker's podium.
Later, Shevardnadze told reporters as he left the United Nations headquarters: "I don't agree with the President's criticism of the Soviet comments about the Persian Gulf." In reference to the buildup of U.S. naval strength in the gulf, he said, "I don't think it's a good idea."
Shevardnadze also differed with Reagan on Soviet support for Security Council action to enforce a cease-fire. Reagan had questioned the sincerity of Soviet backing for the Security Council resolution.
"We are one of the co-sponsors of this resolution," Shevardnadze said. "Of course, we are for implementing that resolution."
While the President touched on trouble spots around the world, he placed each in the context of East-West relations, declaring that the Soviet Union and United States have "a special responsibility . . . to bring greater stability to our competition."
He called the Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based missile defense system also known as the "Star Wars," "a crucial part of our efforts to ensure a safer world and a more stable strategic balance."