WASHINGTON — Portuguese Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva, disappointed in U.S. aid levels, apparently won a commitment Wednesday for consultations on other forms of American compensation for use of a strategic air base in the Azores.
Cavaco Silva, emerging from a two-hour meeting at the White House with President Reagan, said he told the President that cuts in American aid have posed difficulties "particularly at a time when we are committed to the re-equipment of our armed forces and trying to modernize the country."
The Portuguese government, Cavaco Silva said, wants consultations to be held under the terms of a 1983 U.S.-Portugal defense agreement giving the United States access to Lajes Air Base.
Reagan reiterated U.S. desire to help Portugal, and he said "the efforts remain firm, even within the context of the harsh budget realities that we all face. The task of leadership is to rise to the challenge."
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the consultations had been agreed upon, but that no date had been set. The talks, in searching for alternatives to outright increases in direct aid, will reach beyond a pending decision to ship surplus military equipment to Portugal under a separate program, the official said.
These "other forms" of assistance could include expanded cooperation in such areas as economics, science, culture, education or business, the official said.
The Portuguese leader, who arrived Tuesday for three days of talks, is using his first official visit to Washington to register disappointment that the United States is providing barely more than half the $205 million that Portugal wants in aid each year for U.S. rights at Lajes, a vital refueling point in the Atlantic.
The aid level dipped to $117 million this year after hitting the high of $205 million in 1984, one year after the current base agreement was signed.
In his budget proposal last week, Reagan asked Congress for $163 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.