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The Washington Summit : Questions on Tiff : A Puzzled Raisa Says Her Goodby

December 11, 1987|BETTY CUNIBERTI | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev said her goodbys to Nancy Reagan on Thursday, having asked her with puzzlement the night before: "What is this about our not liking each other?"

Although reports have circulated in the American press for a week that Mrs. Reagan was angry at Mrs. Gorbachev for responding late to her White House tour invitation and showing up unannounced at the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Mrs. Gorbachev apparently just got wind of the controversy late Wednesday.

At Wednesday evening's dinner given by the Gorbachevs for the Reagans at the Soviet Embassy, Mrs. Gorbachev asked Mrs. Reagan about the matter through an interpreter as she greeted her.

Had a 'Nice Time'

Several American news organizations had reported the tiff on tips from sources close to Mrs. Reagan, but the American First Lady told Mrs. Gorbachev on Wednesday night that she had had a "nice time" at the summit and could not account for the reports of unfriendly feelings.

"Mrs. Reagan said Mrs. Gorbachev seemed kind of puzzled," said Elaine Crispen, Mrs. Reagan's press secretary. "Mrs. Reagan tried to explain that she also didn't understand it, that it was all silly and that neither of them had said they don't like each other."

The two women had a few unscheduled minutes alone at the White House on Thursday before the Gorbachevs left to fly home. Mrs. Reagan thanked Mrs. Gorbachev for the dinner of the previous evening, and Mrs. Gorbachev thanked her for the gift of a framed picture of the Reagans.

"Mrs. Gorbachev said she would have one for Mrs. Reagan when they came to the Soviet Union," Crispen said, referring to the expected summit in Moscow in the first half of next year. "She said: 'The general secretary will have everything ready for your trip to Moscow.' "

There was no mention of the controversy at a luncheon Thursday at the 19th-Century Georgetown home of Pamela Harriman, widow of diplomat W. Averell Harriman, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's personal emissary to Stalin and wartime ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Responding to a Soviet request for a meeting with American women of distinction, the midday gathering for Gorbachev included Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the two women U.S. senators--Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)--Washington Post Chairman Katharine Graham and University of Chicago President Hanna Gray.

Mikulski said she was impressed by how much "homework" Mrs. Gorbachev had done before the meeting.

"She had something personal to say to each and every one of us about our background, or something that she'd read about us," said Mikulski, who said the main topics of conversation had been peace and expanding cultural, academic and medical exchanges between the two superpowers.

Release of Families

Mikulski said she gave Mrs. Gorbachev a letter of thanks regarding the release of some Maryland family members from the Soviet Union, but conversation about human rights was apparently brief at the meeting.

Women's roles, however, were discussed. "There are very few women at the top levels of the Soviet Union. We did talk briefly about that," Kassebaum said.

After the meeting, Mrs. Gorbachev talked to reporters as she held hands with Mrs. Harriman on the street, complimenting the efforts of Averell Harriman and adding, "We always believed that our peoples can be together, and that's what we must strive for."

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