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Dole Doubts Reagan Has Read Arms Pact He Is to Sign

December 06, 1987|FRANK CLIFFORD | Times Staff Writer

HOPKINTON, N.H. — Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican candidate for President, said Saturday he did not believe that President Reagan has read the nuclear arms control treaty that he and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev are expected to sign Tuesday in Washington.

"I don't think Ronald Reagan has read the treaty," Dole said. "A lot of people may have looked at it for him and given him briefs and all that. Maybe, reading the treaty isn't a requirement. But, at least, somebody ought to be studying it."

In Washington, White House spokesman B. J. Cooper said that "the specific language of the agreement is still being worked out, but the President has been briefed thoroughly. He's fully familiar with all the details."

Dole's comment, made during a campaign appearance here, again raises the charge of inattention to detail that has dogged the Reagan presidency and that was an issue when Reagan and Gorbachev last met at the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Some aides at Reykjavik asserted that Reagan had been insufficiently prepared for the meeting, which was held only 10 days after it was arranged. The United States expected those talks to be mainly about medium-range nuclear missiles, but they ended in deadlock over Reagan's space-based Strategic Defense Initiative.

At his campaign stop, Dole also made it clear, however, that he is not joining conservative critics who have lashed out at Reagan's support for the new treaty, which would eliminate ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range between 300 and 3,000 miles. On Friday, one of those critics, Howard Phillips, president of the Conservative Caucus, called Reagan "a useful idiot for Soviet propaganda."

Said Dole: "I am not some right-winger out there who runs around criticizing anything this President might do."

Dole also released copies of a letter he said he sent to Reagan on Friday in which he defended his decision to withhold final judgment on the treaty as reflecting "that kind of responsible, cautious approach" characteristic of the Administration's dealings with the Soviet Union to date.

With all five of his Republican opponents on record for or against the treaty, Dole has been under pressure to give his opinion. He came close on Saturday, saying he agreed with the treaty "in principle." But, as he has maintained all along, he said he would not make up his mind about the treaty until he reads it.

Dole said a copy of the accord, which he described as 200 pages long and "not very exciting" reading, was made available to the Senate on Thursday.

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