Europe Sees Reagan Talk as Confession

Associated Press

West European media today portrayed President Reagan's speech as an admission that he blundered over Iran arms sales, while the official Soviet press agency Tass said the address was full of contradictions.

Most foreign ministries refused immediate comment. British and French officials said they would not comment on what they regarded an American domestic matter.

The Wednesday night speech came too late for many European newspapers, but it dominated morning radio and television news.

Tass said Reagan's speech "abounded in contradictory statements."

Called Inaccurate

"For instance, he said that he was silent over Irangate for which he has 'paid a price' . . . (but) everybody remembers well that Reagan has made a special statement on Irangate, in which developments were spelled out, to put it mildly, inaccurately," Tass said.

State-run Radio Moscow said Reagan's speech was an attempt to restore Americans' "weakened trust" in their leader, adding that he admitted a mistake that "boiled down to an arms-for-hostages deal."

The radio noted without comment that Reagan denied knowing about the transfer of arms-sales proceeds to contra rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua. But it said polls show that most Americans believe Reagan has withheld the "whole truth" about the Iran-contra affair.

'Off the Hook'

British national newspapers bannered the speech with headlines such as the Times of London's "Reagan Owns Up to Mistakes Over Iran Arms," and the London Evening Standard's "He's Off the Hook."

David McNeil, the British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent in Washington, said Reagan could still be in trouble because he did not concede that his original policy of dealing with Iran was flawed.

London's liberal daily, The Guardian, often very critical of Reagan, said he had exceeded the expectations of his closest friends in Washington by declaring, "I take full responsibility." "Humbled President Acts to Restore Credibility," the Guardian headline said.

Further Repercussions

Denis Healey, foreign affairs spokesman for Britain's main opposition Labor Party, said the speech did not erase the repercussions of the arms deal.

"The effect of that on America's reputation in the world is very serious and won't have been corrected," Healey said in a radio interview.

He said the "nagging question" remained of whether Reagan was capable of exercising proper authority and control on American foreign policy.

In Switzerland, the Tribune de Geneve newspaper said if Reagan followed his "semi-confession" with action he could still "regain a bit of lost ground."

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