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'Ron and Mikhail' Summit Turns to Afghanistan Issue

December 09, 1987|Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev today discussed a timetable for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, taking up problems that might test the camaraderie of the "Ron and Mikhail" summit.

The pair turned to sticky regional issues on day two of their three-day summit after members of Congress told Gorbachev that assurances on Afghanistan would help speed Senate approval of the new U.S.-Soviet arms treaty.

"The fact that we are ready to withdraw from Afghanistan is something that I have said some time ago," the Soviet leader said in response to a reporter's question as he and Reagan sat down in the Oval Office for more talks.

"So what we are going to discuss (here) will be more specific."

Soviet spokesman Gennady Gerasimov said after the two-hour meeting: "The (Afghanistan) question was discussed, and a timetable was also discussed."

No further details were given.

Gorbachev and Reagan, who now call each other "Ron" and "Mikhail" in private talks, conferred in the Oval Office at the outset of a day that also included a Gorbachev lunch with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and a dinner for the Reagans at the Soviet Embassy.

Shelving of SALT II Cited

The 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan led the Senate to shelve the last superpower arms treaty, SALT II, and Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd said he gently reminded Gorbachev of that when a congressional delegation visited the Soviet Embassy this morning.

In an interview on Cable News Network, Byrd said he told Gorbachev that assurances on a pullout from Afghanistan would ease Senate passage of the new Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty over opposition from anti-Soviet conservatives.

"I was telling him very clearly that it would be useful to us in our deliberations on the treaty if the Soviet Union could announce a definitive and realistic timetable for withdrawal," the West Virginia Democrat said.

He stressed that the Senate was not making that a quid pro quo for ratification of the treaty, however, and other lawmakers told Gorbachev that they expected the pact to be approved, without any crippling amendments, sometime next spring.

Some of Reagan's erstwhile conservative supporters, who are furious with him over INF and claim that it compromises U.S. security, have said they will try to change the pact when the Senate takes it up.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole said he and others in the nine-member delegation that visited the Soviet Embassy had reassured Gorbachev on that score.

Sees Passage by April

"I don't see any amendments that are going to require renegotiation," the Kansas Republican said on CNN. He predicted that it will win passage by April.

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