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President Assures Students He Doesn’t Want US Troops In Latin Conflict

September 10, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan told a trio of college students Monday that if he had a chance to address the Soviet people he would let them know the United States is not as aggressive as portrayed in the Soviet media, the students reported.

Reagan, asked about fears on campuses that the United States may get involved in a war in Nicaragua, also assured the students that he does not favor any commitment of U.S. troops to fight in Central or Latin America, the students said.

Reagan gave the 33-minute interview to the North American Network, which specializes in satellite broadcasts to college and public radio stations.

The interview will be aired on hundreds of stations Sept. 19. The White House was expected to issue a transcript, possibly on Tuesday.

The students - Nely Fernandez, 18, of Miami, a junior at the University of Miami; Stephen S. Sanders, 22, of Chicago, a graduate student at Indiana University in Bloomington, and Jean A. Whalen, 21, of Ashtabula, Ohio, a senior at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio - paraphrased the president’s remarks in a news conference held at the National Press Club.

Ms. Fernandez, a daughter of Cuban immigrants, posed the question about students’ fears of U.S. involvement in Nicaragua.

″Basically he said that he does not foresee any commitment in terms of sending troops into Central America in general as well as Latin America,″ she said.

She also asked Reagan what he would say if he had two minutes to address the Soviet people. The White House expressed an interest in that possibility last week after Time magazine ran a lengthy interview with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

″He basically said that the people in Russia ... are given a certain view. He believes that ... maybe we should let the people of Russia know that we are not as aggressive as we seem to be,″ she said.

Ms. Whalen, a political science major whose home area of Cleveland has been hard hit by the decline of the steel industry, asked Reagan what the government was doing to help idle blue-collar workers make the transition to a high technology era.

″He quoted a lot of facts and figures and the improvement over the last three years; the unemployment’s gone down,″ she related. ″I was happy that he had something to say about all of this, but I would have liked a little bit more of a personal opinion of what can the government actually be doing.″

But she added, ″The whole experience was tremendous. I think I’ve got a better opinion, or at least a different opinion of our president now.″

″I am just very well impressed with the man. I think that he was very fair and honest in his answers to us,″ she said.

Ms. Whalen said the president closed with an injunction to the students to go out and check up on his facts. She called that ″pretty surprising. I think that’s what has improved my opinion of him somewhat.″

Sanders, who has been an intern for the Chicago Tribune and the Knoxville News-Sentinel, said that during the interview Reagan ″didn’t drop any bombshells.″

″He always seems to look at the bright side of things ... and to turn the questions to his advantage,″ Sanders said.

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