KENNEBUNKPORT, Me. — President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev will meet next Sunday in Helsinki to discuss the crisis with Iraq, arms control and other issues, Bush announced Saturday.
The President played down suggestions that he and Gorbachev would negotiate a settlement of the confrontation in the Persian Gulf, trying to avoid any hint that the leaders of the world's two superpowers would try to impose a settlement on others. But the White House made clear its hope that the summit meeting would reinforce Iraq's sense of isolation in the world.
"I don't think that's the express purpose" of the meeting, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said. "But," he added, if a message of superpower unity against Iraq "is a product that comes out of it, that's fine with us because we're eager at every turn to show the solidity of world opposition."
The summit takes on special significance because it is planned as a joint U.S.-Soviet effort to deal with a global crisis, the first such meeting since World War II. And it will put to a test the new, closer relationship that the two leaders agreed to form.
Negotiations to reduce armies in Europe will be a major part of the summit agenda, Bush said. Both sides hope to conclude the talks in time to sign a Europe-wide arms reduction treaty in November, but several problems remain, most of them involving how much to reduce military aircraft on the Continent.
"The two heads of state need to give it a push," Fitzwater said.
In addition, two other world trouble spots--Cambodia and Afghanistan--are likely to come up during the brief, one-day meeting, according to National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council--the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France--proposed a new Cambodian peace plan last week that Bush would like to discuss with Gorbachev, according to Fitzwater. The President would also like to talk to Gorbachev about the recent visit to Moscow of President Najibullah, the leader of the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan.
Announcing the summit plans to reporters at his vacation compound here, Bush also denounced Iraq's on-again, off-again plans to release hostages, although more than 500 Westerners, including at least 80 Americans, were allowed to leave the country early today. Iraq's behavior has been a "despicable performance," Bush said.
"I'm glad when any American comes out of there, but there's a certain brutality, a certain tawdry performance in all of this," Bush said. "I don't like it. I don't think the world likes it."
The State Department estimates that about 1,000 American women and children were stranded in Iraq and Kuwait by the invasion. Although Iraq's President Saddam Hussein promised that all foreign women and children would be allowed to leave Iraq last Wednesday, he immediately began throwing bureaucratic roadblocks in their path.
In his statements Saturday, Bush repeated his pessimistic assessment of negotiations to solve the gulf standoff.
"I don't see any willingness" on Iraq's part to comply with U.N. resolutions calling for a withdrawal from Kuwait and restoration of that country's royal family, he said.
"I'd like to be optimistic," he added. "But I don't want to mislead the American people by saying I think that there's some breakthrough at hand."
Bush also confirmed reports that he would like to cancel billions of dollars in military debts that Egypt owes the United States, saying it is his "gut instinct" that the debt forgiveness is the proper response to Egypt's help in the U.S.-led campaign against Iraq. Congress would have to approve any plan to cancel the debt, he noted.
The President once again praised Soviet "cooperation" with the United States in the Iraqi standoff and said the summit would be an "informal" and "unstructured" session, part of his desire to make meetings between the heads of the world's two nuclear superpowers more routine.
But Administration officials said that Bush is likely to press the Soviets to withdraw their remaining military advisers from Iraq. The Soviets have been reluctant to do so for fear that their citizens would become hostages. But with thousands of U.S. citizens still held in Iraq and Kuwait, American officials have grown less sympathetic with that argument.
Unlike previous U.S.-Soviet summits, which often took months to arrange, planning for this meeting began just one week ago with a cable from Bush to Gorbachev. Details have been worked out in a series of telephone calls between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and his Soviet counterpart, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Bush said.
News of the summit was announced simultaneously here and in the Soviet Union, timed for the nightly Soviet television newscast "Vremya," which is aired at 9 p.m. Moscow time (11 a.m. PDT).