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Reagan Determined to Avoid Soviet Buildup

December 01, 1987|Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — President Reagan said today he is determined that next week's summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and an arms-reduction treaty not usher in an era of detente allowing for a Soviet military buildup.

Reagan, in a speech to 8,500 high school seniors and their parents in Jacksonville Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, also said he will ask Gorbachev to set a firm date for Soviet troops to leave Afghanistan and to end military aid to countries in Africa and Central America.

"More than a decade ago, there was a warming in U.S.-Soviet affairs that we called detente, " the President said. "But, while talking friendship, the Soviets worked even faster on the largest military buildup in world history. . . . This time we're after true peace."

Long-Range Effort Continues

Reagan, who has been trying to quiet conservative criticism of a pact with the Soviets on intermediate-range weapons to be signed during the summit meeting, said today that negotiators will continue to work on another treaty to cut in half the long-range nuclear weapons in the superpowers' arsenals.

But he said he will press Gorbachev on human rights issues as well as on the Soviet presence in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"I will tell Mr. Gorbachev it is time for the Soviets to set a date certain for withdrawal . . . and to allow the people of Afghanistan to determine their own destiny," Reagan said. "I will also say it's time for them to leave Cambodia, Ethiopia, Angola and Nicaragua."

As he left the White House for the flight to Florida, Reagan nodded when asked if he had watched Gorbachev, who appeared Monday night in an interview on NBC television, but he did not elaborate on his impressions of the interview.

Arriving in Jacksonville, Reagan was asked again about the interview, and he said of Gorbachev, "I have had a respect for him ever since I met him."

During the flight from Washington aboard Air Force One, Deputy White House Press Secretary Dan Howard was asked whether the President had watched the interview and said, "He watched parts of it and found it interesting."

The summit, scheduled for Dec. 8-10, will be the third between the two leaders. They met in Geneva in 1985 and in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986, but failed to come to terms on arms control.

"For many years, critics around the world have insisted that it would be impossible to get an agreement along the lines we've now worked out," Reagan said in his speech. "Six years ago, when I proposed the elimination of an entire category of U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles, they sneered and said I couldn't be serious."

Now, he said, "we are about to sign an agreement that will do just what I proposed."

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