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Trip to Launch New Initiative, Gorbachev Says

Times Staff Writer

Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said Tuesday that he will be launching a major new diplomatic initiative with his visits to the United States, Britain and Cuba next month.

Gorbachev, clearly intent on maintaining the momentum of the Soviet Union’s activist foreign policy, told a Communist Party conference in the central Russian city of Orel that the Soviet leadership is determined to press ahead on such issues as disarmament, better relations with the United States and greater cooperation in Europe.

“There is much work to be done,” he said, “and we intend to continue acting in close cooperation with socialist countries and with all peoples and governments to put international relations on a proper footing and to strengthen world security.”

‘Lot of Interesting Things’

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Gennady I. Gerasimov, the chief Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that when Gorbachev addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he will have “a lot of interesting things to say.”

Gorbachev will meet in New York with President Reagan and President-elect George Bush, Soviet officials confirmed, for talks that one Kremlin aide described as “much less than a classic summit, but much more than just a pleasant lunch.”

“He has things to say to Bush, and he is very interested in hearing what Bush has to say to him,” the official said.

U.S. officials have proposed that the Soviet leader’s meeting with Reagan be held over lunch at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 7, the Associated Press reported.

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Overall, Gorbachev’s trip is intended to step up the Soviet Union’s already intense, multi-front diplomatic offensive, officials said in Moscow. Gorbachev, now completing his fourth year as the Communist Party’s general secretary, has made a pragmatic, flexible foreign policy a key element in his broad reform program, known as perestroika, or restructuring.

“Perestroika made it possible to determine in a new way our approach to international affairs, to bring it in accord with realities of the world today,” Gorbachev said in Orel, assessing Kremlin gains in foreign affairs and relating them to the domestic reforms. “It gave an impetus to Soviet foreign policy and enriched it with new ideas. Our international activity has become dynamic, bolder politically and more realistic--and hence more effective.”

Citing his visit this weekend to India as well as his trip to Havana, New York and London next month, Gorbachev said the Soviet leadership plans “to continue stepping up our efforts in the foreign policy (field) and to act constructively in the spirit of new political thinking.”

At the United Nations, Soviet delegate Alexander M. Belongov told Reuters news service Tuesday that Gorbachev will arrive in the United States on Dec. 6 and address the General Assembly on the morning of Dec. 7.

Gorbachev is expected to leave Moscow about Dec. 5 and visit Cuba before going to New York, then stop in London on the way home. The tour, which ends Dec. 14, will be his longest trip abroad since he assumed the party leadership in March, 1985.

Gorbachev will use the U.N. General Assembly as a forum, officials here said, not only to set forth Moscow’s views on world problems but also to put forward a number of proposals for action.

“This will not be a set speech--there will be quite important things in it,” one Kremlin official remarked. “There will be a further expansion of what we call our ‘new political thinking.’ ”

A major Gorbachev focus, these officials indicated, will be disarmament--possible proposals to break the present deadlock in Soviet-American negotiations on reducing strategic arsenals and ideas for the proposed talks on cutting conventional forces in Europe.

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Pursuing Same Issues

Gorbachev will also raise these issues in his talks with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London and with French President Francois Mitterrand when the latter visits Moscow next week. He also took them up last month during the visits here of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita and Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky.

“He is intent on disarmament, and he knows that he must tackle those Western leaders who are most convinced of the need for what they call a strong defense,” a senior West European ambassador said. “These two months will have put him up against Kohl, Mitterrand, Reagan and Bush and finally Thatcher. That is a measure of Gorbachev’s own determination, of course, but also of the seriousness with which we are taking him.”

The Soviet leader, who appears equally intent on retaining the initiative in U.S.-Soviet relations, will meet with Reagan and Bush in New York for what Gerasimov described as “more than just a getting-to-know-you meeting.”

“Such a meeting fits very well in the continuation of the Soviet-American political dialogue, which we believe should be without any artificial pauses,” Gerasimov said.

Gerasimov and other officials have stressed Moscow’s desire to preserve the momentum of the two superpowers’ relations through the transition from the Reagan to the Bush administration without the usual hiatus as new officials take over and develop new policies.

No agreements are envisioned, Gerasimov added, but Gorbachev wants to hear what Bush--whom he met last December in Washington as vice president--has to say as President-elect on major issues. “That would be a different sort of a discussion,” Gerasimov said.

But other Soviet officials made clear Moscow’s intention to continue taking the lead in shaping not just the dialogue but the overall relationship with Washington.

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“Our interest, first of all, is that there be no pause--no six-month waiting-around period while the new Administration decides what to do,” another Soviet official added. “With Bush, that should not be necessary. Nobody knows the issues better--isn’t that what he told the voters?

“But, quite frankly, we are also interested in confirming the agenda of the outstanding issues and ensuring that what Gorbachev and Reagan agreed in Moscow at the May summit becomes the agenda for Bush. Work has been done on many problems, and we want to promote further progress, not lose that which we have made.”

What concerns Moscow is Bush’s studied skepticism toward Gorbachev’s overall reforms, particularly in foreign policy. Even as Reagan left Moscow after the May summit, Bush was expressing his doubts about Soviet sincerity.

“We hope we don’t have a problem, and we want to get off to a good as well as a fast start with this Administration,” a Soviet specialist on U.S. affairs commented. “We think that Gorbachev and Bush with Reagan there to make the introductions, as it were, is a pretty good forum.”

In Washington, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Reagan and Bush are prepared to discuss arms control and other matters of substance but that it is doubtful that any new agreements would result.

“This would not be a summit meeting in any traditional sense,” Fitzwater said. “It would rather be a cordial meeting between superpower leaders, reflecting the friendship they have created and the historic change in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.”

Times staff writer Norman Kempster, in Washington, contributed to this story.


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