WASHINGTON -- Fearing the effects on Soviet people of food shortages and a severe winter, President Bush said yesterday that he may allow the Soviet Union to buy food on credit from the United States by waiving trade restrictions that prohibit such transactions.
The Soviet parliament has not yet enacted the emigration guarantees that Mr. Bush has been holding out for before he lifts the controls.
But the president said that he was reconsidering and might change his policy because it was harming U.S. farm communities as well as denying critical food aid to the Soviets.
"It's an evolving issue. . . . I don't know exactly what I'm going to do," Mr. Bush told reporters at a news conference yesterday. "We're caught between some strong and understandable economic interests at home and, on the other hand, a position of wanting to stand for free and fair emigration."
The president insisted his new willingness to consider the issue wasn't related to Soviet support for U.S. positions in the Persian Gulf crisis. "The matters are totally separate and unrelated," he said.
But Mr. Bush said his decision on the trade question was made easier because Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev already had lifted on his own most of the barriers to emigration that the Jackson-Vanik amendment was designed to eliminate.
By waiving the provisions of the amendment, Mr. Bush will clear the path for congressional approval of a U.S.-Soviet trade agreement on which negotiations were completed last spring.