WASHINGTON -- Former President Gerald Ford said Friday it is still possible for President Reagan to achieve a balanced budget and he expects an upturn in the economy by late spring or early summer.
Ford made the comments to reporters outside the White House following a one-hour meeting with Reagan in the Oval Office that focused on the perceived threat from Libya and Reagan's action to counter it.
Asked about the current controversy on whether deficits are important or not, Ford said, 'I don't think you should have them in perpetuity.'
He said he believes the administration 'should set a goal and say we're going to have a balanced budget in 1983, 1984 or 1985.'
'If they keep up the current program of reducing current federal spending as I believe they will, if the economy recovers as I think it will, starting in the late spring or early summer, I believe within 18 to 24 months we can have and will have a balanced budget,' Ford said.
He declined to 'pass judgment' on whether national security adviser Richard Allen, whose past business interests are under investigation by the Justice Department, should be allowed to return to his post.
But he said he favored the retention of David Stockman as budget director because he is 'most knowledgeable' about the budget. However, he recommended that Stockman limit his statements to hearings on Capitol Hill and not to the press.
On the Middle East, Ford reiterated that he believes the Palestinian Liberation Organization has to be brought into the negotiating process for a 'fair and equitable' peace settlement. But he said the PLO must first recognize the right of Israel to exist and UN resolutions that ended the 1967 war.
Asked about the new repressions that Israeli military authorities have invoked in the occupied Arab lands, including the shooting of two teenage Palestinian boys, Ford said oppression by any government in that region is 'unforgivable.'