LONDON -- Europeans reacted with grave concern to the resignation of the familiar Soviet foreign minister, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, yesterday.
It immediately brought an international call from Germany, France and Britain for support for President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's beleaguered reform program.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he understood Mr. Shevard
nadze's statement to indicate support for the Gorbachev reforms.
"We can only hope that the reforms are carried out. They are good for the Soviet Union, and they are good for the relationship between people and for developments in Europe," he said, adding that he hoped Mr. Gorbachev "would pull through."
German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, whose contacts with Mr. Shevardnadze helped pave the way for German unification, said, "We must do whatever we can from our side in Western Europe to support the forces of reform in the Soviet Union."
French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said, "I hope this cry of alarm will be heard. It will serve as a warning to Western countries and others who are dragging their feet over aid which must be given."
Mr. Dumas said Mr. Shevardnadze had disclosed his concern about developments in the Soviet Union earlier. He said: "He didn't hide his worries. If perestroika did not succeed, [there would be] a dictatorship in the Soviet Union."
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said it was too early to draw any definite conclusions from the resignation, but added: "Obviously we hope that the policies of reform, which we have supported and which President Gorbachev has over the years introduced, will be continued. That is important for us, and obviously important for the Soviet Union."
Italy's Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis interpreted Mr. Shevardnadze's resignation as "a sign of the great tension existing at this moment in the U.S.S.R. and Moscow."
The military commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium, Gen. John R. Galvin, said, "The Soviets certainly face a bleak winter. I hope what we're hearing now doesn't make it any worse.
"All of us in the West want to see the Soviet people continue on a track that will lead to full democracy, free enterprise and respect for human rights. But this has to be done in a way that maintains order without sacrificing democratic principles."
The foreign minister of the Netherlands, Hans van den Broek, said that he was "dejected" over the resignation, and he credited the Soviet foreign minister with being an architect of East-West detente.
In Brussels, the European Commission said it was deeply concerned about the implications.
"Shevardnadze is seen as an important factor for the political and economic reforms under way in the Soviet Union," a spokesman said.