BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Former President Jimmy Carter says President Reagan wrongly accused him of being a weak leader because of his 'human rights' foreign policy.
'Mr. Reagan in our campaign debates said that the human rights policy was a sign of weakness -- that we should support governments that were friends and not try to comment on their internal politics, and that a show of strength was the best way to show American influence,' Carter told a university group Tuesday.
'He's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. I can't swear that my policy is correct -- I think it is. I think in some ways our human rights policy was effective,' Carter said.
Carter said he telephoned former Argentine military President Gen. Jorge Videla to plead for the release of hundreds of political prisoners, including Jocobo Timerman, a noted Argentine journalist who later fled to exile in Israel and then returned to Argentina after the country restored democratic rule last December.
Carter said that if anything, his human rights campaign was not strong enough.
'When I look back on my term in office, if I could make one change in my commitment to human rights, it would be to make it stronger, not weaker,' Carter said.
On the first day of a two-day private visit to Argentina sponsored by an American group aimed at improving relations between North and South America, Carter dined with Argentine President Raul Alfonsin.
Shortly after his inauguration last December, Alfonsin ordered the court martial of Videla and eight other former military junta members on charges of kidnapping, torturing and executing thousands of political opponents during military rule from 1976 to 1983.