Reagan and Shevardnadze Hold Surprise 45-Min. Talk : Plea Made for Release of Daniloff
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze made a surprise call today on President Reagan, who registered “the strength of his feelings” about the detention of journalist Nicholas Daniloff and was handed a letter from Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
The contents of Gorbachev’s message were not divulged in a two-sentence statement issued by the White House after the 45-minute meeting.
The highest-level superpower talks in 10 months were held at the start of two days of talks between Shevardnadze and Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
“The President met with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze today to convey the strength of his feelings about the continued refusal of the Soviet authorities to allow Nicholas Daniloff to return home,” the statement said.
Daniloff, a correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, is under Soviet indictment on espionage charges.
“Foreign Minister Shevardnadze delivered to the President a letter from General Secretary Gorbachev,” the statement continued. “The meeting lasted about 45 minutes.”
Less Than Hour’s Notice
Under a tight lid of secrecy, Shevardnadze met in the Oval Office with Reagan, Shultz, White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan and John M. Poindexter, the President’s national security adviser.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the meeting was arranged less than an hour before Shevardnadze arrived. It was proposed by Shultz as he and the Soviet foreign minister concluded a round of meetings at the State Department.
Another round between Shultz and Shevardnadze was set for late afternoon at the State Department.
As the Oval Office meeting was in progress, Speakes said Reagan planned to raise the Daniloff case as the first subject of business. The spokesman would not say whether the talks would move on to other subjects.
“The President wished to express his views directly” about Daniloff, Speakes said. Daniloff was arrested on espionage charges in Moscow on Aug. 30 and released last Friday to the custody of the American Embassy there.
The White House did not allow any photographs of the Reagan-Shevardnadze meeting and said it will not distribute any taken by the White House photographer. Shevardnadze was brought into the White House through a gate not usually used as an entrance.
‘Make No Interpretation’
Speakes cautioned reporters against assuming that the Reagan-Shevardnadze meeting heralded progress in the Soviet foreign minister’s earlier session with Shultz. “If I were you, I’d make no interpretation because you don’t know,” Speakes said. “There should be none at this time.”
At the State Department, meanwhile, spokesman Bernard Kalb said, “I have no way of offering you any characterization or interpretation of the talks.”
Kalb said Shultz and Shevardnadze had planned to be joined in their discussions by other members of the U.S. and Soviet delegations. But, not having met for 10 months, “as it turned out” they kept to a one-on-one session in the morning.
While the Daniloff matter was at the top of the U.S. agenda, Shevardnadze intended to press the United States on the U.S.-ordered expulsion of 25 Soviet U.N. diplomats, a move Moscow has labeled illegal.
Before Daniloff was arrested, the purpose of the Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting had been to prepare an agenda for the summit Reagan and Gorbachev agreed last November to hold here this year. But an official said Thursday, “I honestly do not expect dates to come out of these sessions.”