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Kohl Says ‘Hard’ Talks with Gorbachev, Clash on Berlin Reunification

October 25, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said Tuesday he and President Mikhail S. Gorbachev failed to agree on whether to reunify Berlin, but signed accords to help the sick Soviet food industry and put a West German in space.

The chancellor earlier highlighted his concern for human rights by meeting with Andrei D. Sakharov, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate at the West German ambassador’s residence.

Kohl, speaking to reporters before a second round of talks with Gorbachev, took a philosophical view to the dispute over Berlin that surfaced in banquet speeches the night before.

″The last word of history is neither spoken by me or by Mr. Gorbachev,″ Kohl said.

In a dinner speech, Gorbachev had said of the Berlin dispute: ″The attempts to upset what has been created in the (postwar) process or push through unrealistic policies is an unpredictable and even dangerous business.″

He appeared to be referring to Kohl’s proposal for a change in the status of Berlin and closer relations between NATO member West Germany and Moscow- aligned East Germany.

Since the end of World War II, West Berlin has been under the control of the United States, France and Britain, the victorious allies. The city has been divided since 1961 by a wall that symbolizes the East-West hostility of the Cold War. Kohl said in a radio interview in January ″there can be no real improvement in relations between Moscow and Bonn if Berlin is not included.″

On Tuesday, Kohl told reporters he was not surprised by Gorbachev’s remarks on Berlin.

″The world can’t be changed in a couple of hours,″ he said, adding that he was optimistic agreement eventually could be reached.

Kohl said Monday’s talks had been ″often and in part hard.″

The two met again Tuesday, but a Tass news agency dispatch on the session did not say whether they discussed the Berlin dispute.

Tass said aides signed agreements, including one on the peaceful uses of outer space. It said the pact provides for the possibility that a West German would fly aboard the Soviet Union’s orbiting space station, Mir. West German officials said the pact also could have German astronauts join Soviets in traveling to Mars in 1994.

West Germans have traveled to space in 1983 and 1985 aboard the U.S. space shuttle.

During recent visits by Austrian and Italian leaders, the Soviet Union invited citizens of those countries to fly aboard the Mir station. Next month, French President Francois Mitterrand is to observe the launch of a French- Soviet space crew to the station.

Another agreement signed Tuesday calls for West German companies to help modernize about 200 Soviet food and consumer goods factories, Tass reported. The Kremlin, faced with growing complaints, has placed priority on eliminating food and consumer goods shortages.

Kohl met earlier Tuesday with Soviet Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov to discuss economic cooperation, which includes a $1.6 billion German credit to the Kremlin to finance exports in food, leather, textile and clothing.

Sakharov, the founding father of the 1970s Soviet dissident movement told Kohl there still are political prisoners in the Soviet Union and they must be released and rehabilitated, according to German spokesman Friedhelm Ost.

Sakharov was banished to the closed city of Gorky in 1980 for criticizing the Kremlin’s military push into Afghanistan. Gorbachev allowed him to return to Moscow in December 1986.

Kohl, who arrived in Moscow on a four-day visit Monday, paid homage Tuesday to Soviet and German victims of World War II. In freezing weather and under an gray sky, Kohl laid a wreath at the Soviet Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beside the Kremlin wall. The ceremony, a protocol must for foreign dignitaries visiting Moscow, takes on a special poignancy when performed by a German.

″The distinguished guest honored by a minute of silence the memory of millions of Soviet people who died in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45,″ Tass said in a brief report.

An unknown Soviet soldier killed in 1941 when the Werhmacht was at the gates of Moscow is buried in the tomb, which is topped by an eternal flame. Total Soviet losses in World War II are officially put at 20 million, but some Soviet historians suggest that figure is far too low.

Kohl then was driven to a walled cemetery in the Moscow district of Lyublino, where 596 German soldiers who were taken prisoner by the Red Army during World War II and later died in captivity are buried.

On a dark granite obelisk at the cemetery’s entrance, the words ″for peace and reconcilation″ are carved in Russian. Prior to Kohl’s arrival, a solitary flower had been placed on each German soldier’s grave in the front row.

Kohl laid a wreath and walked between the graves, whose stone border had been freshly painted white.

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