Bush, Gorbachev renew friendship, discuss aid

October 30, 1991|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Sun Staff Correspondent

MADRID, Spain -- President Bush, while putting heavy stress on his friendship with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, said yesterday that Soviet republics would share in an emerging economic aid package being developed with other industrialized democracies.

After a two-hour luncheon meeting a day before both presidents launch a Middle East peace conference, Mr. Bush praised new signs of cooperation between the central government and the republics.

Yesterday's announced agreement by 12 Soviet republics to share responsibility for Soviet debts, he said, "makes it easier for the United States or the G-7 or the other countries that clearly want to assist in the reform process."

While no specifics were agreed on, the two governments were "in a phase of discussing details" about an aid package that Mr. Bush indicated was much broader than just a means to stave off suffering during the coming Soviet winter.

"I think that what we ought to do . . . is figure out the best package that we can do that will come as close to meeting his requirements as possible for economic aid. And clearly some will go to the republics," Mr. Bush said.

"There is no agreement on specific amounts or anything of that nature, but . . . we had a good discussion of the requirements."

Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev also agreed to appoint working groups to develop arms control agreements based on the two governments' sweeping nuclear weapons reduction proposals.

Mr. Bush said Reginald Bartholomew, undersecretary of state for security affairs, would be dispatched "to discuss what additional steps we can agree on."

As the two men joined in giving a strong push to today's Middle East peace conference, Mr. Bush spoke almost emotionally of the bond they had formed over two years. But he also noted the power shift since the failed August coup that has dissolved much of Mr. Gorbachev's clout.

"We in the United States watch with fascination and keen interest the developments inside the Soviet Union, the dramatic movements that he himself committed himself to years ago.

"So it is not for me to fine-tune every detail of change inside the Soviet Union. It is for me to continue to negotiate with President Gorbachev, with his total understanding, I'm sure.

"We've had many contacts with the republics as well. And so we will deal with what's there. And I'm very happy to see my friend again and to have had very fruitful discussions that have not in any way been altered by the tragic coup attempt last summer."

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