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Old Foes Nixon, Muskie Join in Bipartisan Arms Control Effort

Times Staff Writer

Two erstwhile political adversaries, former President Richard M. Nixon and former Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie, have held talks for about a year aimed at developing a bipartisan arms control program that the United States could present to the Soviet Union, Nixon aide John Taylor said Wednesday.

Nixon, Muskie and former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) met with President Reagan in New York on Sept. 24, when Reagan was addressing the United Nations, according to Taylor, who refused to give any details of their discussion.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes, aboard Air Force One with the President en route to Oklahoma City, confirmed Wednesday that Reagan met with Nixon and Muskie during the 1984 presidential election campaign “to discuss foreign policy.”

Speakes also said Reagan hears from Nixon occasionally, but he said that the White House is unaware of further meetings between Nixon and Muskie.

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Four days after his luncheon in the Waldorf Astoria hotel with the Nixon group, the President met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko. One source indicated that the group--composed of Nixon, Muskie, Baker and Alton Frye, executive director of the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations--offered suggestions about how to deal with the Soviet official. This could not be confirmed, however.

The collaboration between Republican Nixon and Democrat Muskie has an element of paradox. In 1972, Muskie, then a Maine senator and early front-runner in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was a major target for “dirty tricks” staged by the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CREEP), then-President Nixon’s campaign organization, which was behind the Watergate break-in and scandal. Muskie served as secretary of state in the Carter Administration and is now a Washington attorney.

Evidence of Nixon’s Influence

The Chicago Tribune, which first disclosed the Nixon-Muskie effort Wednesday, said that “the group’s existence provides still more evidence of Nixon’s substantial influence in the Reagan Administration.” It cited two recent books on the 1984 presidential election “which detail the help Nixon gave the Reagan campaign.”

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Frye outlined in the spring issue of Foreign Policy magazine a set of proposals designed to achieve the group’s primary aims: breaking the impasse between Soviet and American arms negotiators and bridging differences between Democrats and Republicans in Congress on arms issues.

Frye called upon Reagan to de-emphasize his Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called “Star Wars” program, in hopes of getting deep cuts in Soviet offensive weapons, and to reaffirm the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the current policy of not undercutting the SALT I and SALT II agreements.

Frye said Wednesday that the article was “strictly my statement.”

The chief ideas expressed in it could also reflect thinking in the Nixon group, but, if so, those ideas are fiercely rejected by conservatives and have long been resisted by Reagan.

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In a brief phone conversation, Frye described the group’s meetings as “a series of consultations which covered the need for a bipartisan approach to Soviet-American relations, particularly in arms control.”


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