Official Applause, Anti-Nuclear Champagne; Some Qualms Remain
LONDON (AP) _ West European governments hailed Tuesday’s signing of the U.S.-Soviet nuclear missile treaty as anti-nuclear activists popped champagne corks and a Sicilian mayor exulted that it ″takes death off our backs.″
Some Europeans, however, expressed qualms.
Several French commentators charged the superpowers have stripped America’s allies of a major defense by agreeing to eliminate intermediate-range, land- based missiles from the European continent.
Anti-nuclear activists drank champagne toasts outside the Soviet and U.S. embassies in London as President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev signed the treaty in Washington. The bottles were marked ″Summit ’87 Vintage.″
″Just for a day, it’s ‘Champagne for Nuclear Disarmament’,″ said Alec Howe, spokesman for Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Hundreds of Italians gathered in the main square of Comiso, a town in Sicily where U.S. cruise missiles are deployed, to cheer as an official presented U.S. and Soviet diplomats with silver plaques bearing peace symbols.
″It is good, not only for us, because it takes death off our backs, but because it is good for all humanity,″ Rosario La Perna, the town’s mayor, told The Associated Press.
The signing of the treaty led European newscasts. Several national networks, including the British Broadcasting Corp., extended regular evening news programs to broadcast the ceremony live.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who conferred Monday with Gorbachev during a refueling stop for his jetliner at an English air base, told reporters, ″It’s a marvelous Christmas present, an extra piece of good will and a lovely way to end the year.″
But earlier Tuesday, shouting above opposition jeers in the House of Commons, she refused to promise she would not replace the land-based missiles banned under the treaty with U.S. nuclear missiles fired from submarines or warplanes.
″With regard to all our other defenses, we have a positive duty to see they are modernized and effective,″ the Conservative prime minister told Neil Kinnock, the Labor Party leader.
Kinnock said Britain would wreck the treaty if it permits deployment of new U.S. missiles ″either by innovation or some so-called process of modernization.″
Polish leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski sent messages to Gorbachev and Reagan saying that ″what even recently seemed impossible has now become reality.″ He added, ″The first significant step has been made on the road leading to a world free of nuclear arms.″
Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway also sent letters to the superpower leaders. She wrote that the treaty ″can also trigger progress in other arms control negotiations, especially those concerning reduction of strategic weapons, strengthen the conventional stability and the banning of chemical weapons.″
American cruise and Pershing 2 missiles deployed in Britain, Italy, West Germany and Belgium and Soviet medium-range missiles targeted at Western Europe are to be removed over three years. The countdown starts if and when the U.S. Senate ratifies the treaty.
France and Britain, Western Europe’s only nuclear powers, will retain and modernize their own arsenals - mainly sea-launched long-range missiles.
The 12-nation European Economic Community issued a statement over the weekend praising the accord.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl told West German citizens they should be pleased with the treaty.
″We can all rejoice together over this,″ Kohl said in a short speech on the ZDF television network moments after the agreement was signed.
Kohl said further disarmament steps need to be taken, including a reduction in short-range nuclear missiles, elimination of the Warsaw Pact’s advantage in conventional forces and a ban on chemical weapons.
Communist East Germany’s leader, Erich Honecker, said the pact would lead to ″greater stability and trust in international relations,″ the official ADN news agency reported.
Pope John Paul II said Roman Catholics prayed the treaty will reduce ″the threat of nuclear catastrophe.″
In France, where criticism of the superpower pact has been widespread, President Francois Mitterrand said carping could harm Europe’s security.
″It is not much, but it is important. Would you prefer that we overarm?″ Mitterrand said, speaking at Le Creusot, 200 miles southeast of Paris.
Among generally hostile French comment, a front-page cartoon in the conservative Le Figaro newspaper depicted Europe as a woman on a circus poster having her clothes stripped off by Gorbachev and Reagan. ″Washington Circus. Ronny and Gorby In Their Wild Striptease Number,″ said the caption.
The pro-socialist Le Matin newspaper declared, ″Europe is the big loser of the Washington summit.″
Belgium’s De Gazet van Antwerpen, said ″the decisions on ... war and peace in Europe are bypassing the Europeans.″
The Spanish government of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez expressed ″great satisfaction″ on the treaty signing.
George Younger, the British defense secretary, said 16 cruise missiles based at Molesworth, near Cambridge, will be the first to go. They arrived this year, well after the first deployment of land-based U.S. missiles in Europe.
That was in November 1983 at Greenham Common base, 50 miles west of London, which now has 96 missiles.
Women anti-nuclear campaigners, who for five years have maintained a ″peace camp″ of makeshift shelters outside Greenham Common, hung on.
″We have to be here to make sure the treaty is observed and to check on what happens after cruise,″ said Lorna Richardson, 22.