ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada -- Vice President George Bush said Thursday the United States will proceed with a planned military pullout from the island it invaded 17 months ago, but pledged Washington would 'reverse the withdrawal' if Grenada's security was threatened.
Bush left the picturesque Caribbean island at midafternoon, 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and later arrived in Brasilia for the inauguration Friday of Brazil's President-elect Tancredo Neves.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also arrived in Brazil late Thursday and said his country was making approaches through the U.S. Embassy in Managua for further meetings after his talks with Secretary of State George Shultz in Uruguay. Ortega, however, not commit himself to a meeting with Bush.
'Many have expressed the fear that without our troops the unprincipled, anti-democratic forces and their foreign allies in the communist bloc will once again work to subvert the freedom Grenada now enjoys,' Bush told a rally attended by some 7,000 people in a playing field on the outskirts of St. George's, Grenada's capital.
'Let me assure you, we will not leave you unprotected,' he said.
'We will not sit idly by and watch your security threatened. And should a security threat materialize during the withdrawal period, we stand by ready to halt and, if necessary, reverse the withdrawal of our security forces,' said Bush, who was introduced by Prime Minister Herbert Blaize.
The United States has steadily decreased its military presence on the island of 90,000 people since October 1983, when President Reagan ordered an invasion by 6,000 U.S.-led troops. The multinational force ousted hard-line Marxists who had murdered Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and seized power.
Bush read aloud a letter from Reagan that referred to Washington's plans to withdraw its remaining 300 U.S. military personnel in an operation beginning next month and ending in September. The pullout would leave security duties to a paramilitary force of some 550 U.S.-trained Grenadians.
'I am confident ... that the expert training provided to your police and security forces, combined with your able political and economic leadership, will ensure a safe and secure future for Grenada,' the letter said.
Grenadian officials, in meetings with Bush, said they asked that the timetable be changed to extend the Americans' stay by years.
But Bush said, 'I didn't come here to change any plans along that line.'
There is no timetable for the pullout of 360 mostly Jamaican peacekeepers also stationed on the island.
Bush said appeals for increased financial aid would be considered.
'I've said ever since 1983 that Grenada was a proud moment,' Bush said before leaving. 'What I've seen here today adds up to the fact that we did the right thing in assisting this country to go the democratic route.'
On his talks in Moscow Wednesday with new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Bush told reporters:
'This president of ours is determined to make progress on these arms control talks and I got the feeling the new Soviet leader feels the same way, which is good. That's an encouraging thing.'
The vice president, wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, red tie and khaki-colored pants, basked in the sun and cheers of Grenadians who packed the field and lined the surrounding hills for a glimpse of the highest-ranking Reagan administration official to visit the spice-growing island.
Bush was greeted by banners that read: 'Thank God for the Cowboy,' and 'The U.S. and Grenada -- a Winning Team.'
Bush retraced some of the steps of the U.S. invasion force near the white-sand Grand Anse Beach and drove past St. George's Medical School, where he was loudly applauded by U.S. students. Reagan cited concern for the safety of the students at the school when he disclosed the October invasion.
Bush set out from Washington on March 3 for a trip that will have stretched from famine-stricken Africa to Honduras before he returns home March 16. He interrupted his trip early this week to attend the funeral of Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko in Moscow.