Administration Says Gorbachev Arms Offer ‘Interesting’
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) _ The Reagan administration said Tuesday that a reported Soviet offer to eliminate short-range nuclear weapons from Est Germany and Czechoslovakia is ″interesting.″
However, the administration would neither confirm nor deny that such an offer had been made to Secretary of State George Shultz in Moscow.
Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s offer Tuesday to eliminate Soviet short-range nuclear weapons in Europe, but not the Soviet Union, was reported in the official news agency Tass.
″I can say that the ideas presented in Tass are interesting and we would take them seriously if true,″ White House deputy press secretary Dan Howard said.
The two sides have been working toward agreement on weapons with a range of 600-3,000 miles, but the offer by Gorbachev concerns those with a range of 350-600 miles.
Howard said that before any response could be made, any such proposal would have to be discussed with America’s NATO allies, who have expressed concern about vulnerability to Soviet superiority in short-range, tactical weapons and conventional forces if medium-range missiles are withdrawn.
The Tass account said Shultz insisted on a U.S. right to match the shorter- range missiles that would remain in the Soviet Union.
A White House official, speaking on condition that he not be identified, said Shultz had spoken by telephone Tuesday afternoon with President Reagan’s national security adviser, Frank Carlucci. The official refused to comment on the substance of that conversation.
Earlier Tuesday, Shultz sent President Reagan a three-page cable on his talks in Moscow, describing the sessions as ″frank and detailed,″ the White House said.
Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater refused to give any detail on the message.
After reading the cable, the president ″remains optimistic about the talks, and they seem to be off to a good beginning,″ Fitzwater said.
Asked later whether the Carlucci-Shultz discussion had resulted in any change in the administration’s optimism, the White House official who requested anonymity said, ″Our view hasn’t changed.″
Fitzwater said Reagan received the cable at his moutaintop Rancho del Cielo, where he is spending a week-long Easter vacation.
Schultz was scheduled to come to Santa Barbara to report on the talks following their conclusion.
″The secretary said he had had frank and detailed discussions and that they had covered a wide range of subjects,″ Fitzwater told reporters.
The spokesman noted that Shultz sent the cable before he had further meetings scheduled with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov.
The president was to receive a report on those sessions in ″several hours,″Fitzwater said.
Asked if the use of the word ″frank″ indicated a vigorous or a combative exchange of viewpoints, the spokesman said, ″Frank in the diplomatic terms means .. both sides firmly explained their positions and where we stand on various issues.″
″We remain optimistic for productive talks. I don’t think there’s been anything to change that,″ he said.
Chief of Staff Howard Baker said a day earlier that he expected Shultz and Shevardnadze to make progress towards a third Reagan-Gorbachev summit, as well as reaching an accord on limiting medium-range weapons in Europe.
Fitzwater said the cable was the only information that had been recieved so far and that the president sent no information back.
Asked about communications practices in the wake of the recent disclosure of espionage and security breaches at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Fitzwater said, ″We’re being very careful. The cable is probably the most secure method of providing information.″