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European Leaders Hail Superpower Pact, But Qualms Remain With PM-Summit Rdp, Bjt

December 9, 1987

LONDON (AP) _ Western European leaders welcomed the superpower arms accord, with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher calling it a marvellous Christmas present and French President Mitterrand saying: ″It’s not much but it’s important.″

However, qualms about the deal signed Tuesday by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev remained. Some said the treaty scrapping intermediate-range nuclear missiles would weaken West European defenses.

″The British and French independent nuclear deterrents must remain,″ the Times of London said today. ″Strength is all the more necessary at a time when other means of defending Western Europe are being scaled down.″

Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, speaking on television, said Tuesday his countrymen should welcome the pact signed in Washington.

But Kohl said further disarmament steps needed to be taken, including a reduction in short-range nuclear missiles, elimination of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact’s advantages in conventional forces, and a ban on chemical weapons.

Pope John Paul II, speaking at the Vatican, said Roman Catholics prayed the treaty will reduce ″the threat of nuclear catastrophe.″

In Sicily, more than 3,000 people, including Soviet and U.S. diplomats and a Buddhist monk, held peace celebrations Tuesday in the town of Comiso, which is home to 112 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to be removed under the pact.

″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, Comiso’s socialist mayor told The Associated Press.

Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson of Sweden hailed the pact as ″an historical treaty which could be the start of a new era.″ The Dutch government said it ″noted the signing of the pact with great satisfaction.″

Against the fierce opposition of anti-nuclear groups and angry demonstrations , the Netherlands was the last of five NATO nations to accept deployment of the missiles on its soil. Stationing was due to begin next year but the pact means the planned deployments there are called off.

U.S. cruise and Pershing 2 missiles, deployed in the four other nations involved - 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 after the U.S. Congress ratifies the treaty.

In London, anti-nuclear protesters drank champagne toasts outside the Soviet and U.S. embassies as the treaty was signed.

Several national networks, including the British Broadcasting Corp., extended regular evening news programs Tuesday to broadcast the signing live, and the pact led European newscasts and dominated newspaper headlines today.

Mrs. Thatcher, standing beside a Christmas tree outside her 10 Downing St. office, said: ″It’s a marvellous Christmas present.″

Mrs. Thatcher, who conferred with Gorbachev in England on Monday, has refused to promise not to replace the land-based missiles banned under the treaty with ones fired from submarines or warplanes.

″With regard to all our other defenses, we have a positive duty to see they are modernized and effective,″ she said, shouting above opposition jeers in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Britain and France, Western Europe’s only nuclear powers, will retain and modernize their own independent nuclear arsenals, mainly sea-launched long- range missiles.

Mrs. Thatcher’s comments underlined a joint weekend statement by the 12- nation European Economic Community praising the accord.

In France, where criticism of the pact has been widespread, Mitterrand warned that carping could harm Europe’s security. ″It is not much, but it is important. Would you prefer that we overarm?″ he said.

The generally hostile comment in the French media Tuesday was typified by a cartoon in the conservative Le Figaro newspaper.

It 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.″