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President Reagan, reporting to the nation on the Geneva...

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON -- President Reagan, reporting to the nation on the Geneva summit, said Thursday he and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made a 'fresh start' in the quest for peace but 'still have a long ways to go' before they can end the threat of nuclear war.

Basking triumphantly in applause at the climax of the first summit in six years despite the absence of any substantial movement on the crucial issue of arms control, Reagan told a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, 'This meeting was worthwhile for both sides.

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'A new realism spawned the summit. The summit itself was a good start, and now our byword must be: Steady as we go.'

Despite that assessment, Reagan warned against 'quick fixes' and rejected 'illusory detente' and 'cosmetic improvements that won't stand the test of time.' 'We want real peace,' he said.

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The president, ending a grueling day that began at 4 a.m. EST with a joint appearance with the Kremlin leader in Geneva to report on the summit's fruits, arrived in Washington about 8:35 p.m., ending a six-day summit journey that included 15 hours of talks, including five hours alone with Gorbachev.

'That was the best part -- our fireside summit,' he said of the quiet chats he and Gorbachev, alone except for two translators, had beside a blazing fire.

Reagan made a dramatic helicopter flight from Andrews Air Force Base to the floodlit East Front of the Capitol -- a carbon-copy of Richard Nixon's return from his 1972 summit in Moscow that yielded the SALT 1 treaty -- to speak to the nation and lawmakers who had displayed uncommon bipartisanship in their support of his mission.

While Reagan did not return with -- and had warned against expecting - substantive results on nuclear weapons issues, he said that during the two-day summit he and Gorbachev made 'a measure of progress' on the subject and agreed to tell their negotiators 'to hasten their vital work' when arms formal talks resume in January.

'The world is waiting for results,' Reagan said, winning one of the 20 rounds of applause that punctuated the 18-minute speech.

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While noting that he and Gorbachev reaffirmed their offers to cut nuclear arsenals by 50 percent -- although there is disagreement over what to include -- Reagan acknowledged deep difference with the Soviet leader over the U.S. 'Star Wars' anti-missile defense program. Moscow has made a halt in the Strategic Defense Initiative, as the research program is called formally, paramount in the talks on cutting superpower arsenals.

When Gorbachev 'insisted that we might use a strategic defense system to put offensive weapons into space and establish nuclear superiority,' Reagan said, 'I welcomed the chance to tell Mr. Gorbachev that we are a nation that defends, rather than attacks, that our alliances are defensive, not offensive. We don't seek nuclear superiority. We do not seek a first strike advantage over the Soviet Union.'

Reagan, speaking in a jam-packed House chamber to an audience of lawmakers, Cabinet officers, diplomats and others of the Washington elite, exclaimed after a three-minute standing ovation, 'It's great to be home.' House Speaker Thomas O'Neill, D-Mass., and Vice President George Bush, who had met Reagan at Andrews, sat behind him on the high speakers stand.

The summit produced an agreement for future summits -- which Reagan hailed as an important breakthrough and saw the completion of a half-dozen secondary accords on such topics as culutral exchanges and 'people-to-people' programs and talks on chemical weapons and halting the spread of nuclear weapons.

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'It was a constructive meeting,' Reagan said. 'So constructive, in fact, that I look forward to welcoming Mr. Gorbachev to the United States next year. And I have accepted his invitation to go to Moscow the following year.' And after a burst of applause, he added: 'We arranged that out in the parking lot.'

As Reagan flew to Washington, White House aides said the date for Gorbachev's visit to the United States has not been fixed, but most likely would be in the summer or fall.

The 74-year-old president, appearing fresh after his 8 hour-plus flight across the Atlantic, said the modest steps taken in Geneva 'are part of a long-term effort to build a more stable relationship with the Soviet Union.'

'No one ever said it would be easy,' he said, 'but we've come a long way.'

But he delivered a warning against expecting too much too soon.

'I am, as you are, impatient for results,' Reagan said. 'But goodwill and good hopes do not always yield lasting results. Quick fixes don't fix big problems.'

Amid his cautionary notes -- such as the reminder that 'we remain far apart on a number of issues' -- Reagan emphasized, 'We agreed to continue meeting and this is important.

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'There's always room for movement, action and progress when people are talking to each other instead of about each other.'

Reagan reported that he and Gorbachev 'did make a measure of progress' on arms control. 'While we still have a long ways to go, we're at least heading in the right direction,' he said.

The rhetoric and optimism represented a sharp revision in Reagan's view of U.S.-Soviet relations since March 1983, when he called the Soviet Union an 'evil empire.'

For the president, attacked during his 1984 re-election campaign for failing to meet his Soviet counterpart during his first term, the summit marked an effort to cap a political career with a legacy of peace and progress on global issues he holds dear.

Reminding the nation of the topics he laid out in a speech to the nation last week as his agenda for Geneva -- reducing superpower tensions, questions of human rights, and impressing Moscow with the importance of regional conflicts like Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Cambodia -- Reagan said:

'I made clear before the first meeting that no question would be swept aside -- no issue buried -- just because either side found it uncomfortable or inconvenient. I brought these questions to the summit and put them before Mr. Gorbachev.'

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Likewise he repeated his modest goals: 'I had called for a fresh start -- and we made that start.

'I can't claim we had a meeting of the minds on such fundamentals as ideology or national purpose -- but we understand each other better. And that's a key to peace. I gained a better perspective. I feel he did, too.'

Reagan, whose advisers had taken pains to keep expectations of concrete agreements low before the summit, acknowledged Gorbachev proved to be 'an energetic defender of Soviet policy,' but said he had been equally forceful in pressing the Soviet leader on 'the great issues of our time' and 'expressing our peaceful intentions.'

With little apparent change wrought in Geneva in the U.S. and Soviet positions on nuclear arms control, Reagan devoted a substantial portion of his remarks to the topic, including calls for slashing arsenals and a defense of Star Wars.

'We agreed in Geneva that each side should move to cut offensive nuclear arms by 50 percent in appropriate categories,' Reagan said, noting that in the summit-ending joint statement he and Gorbachev 'called for early progess on this, turning the talks toward our chief goal, offensive reductions.'

Reagan, who stopped briefly in Brussels, Belgium, to tell NATO allies about the summit, returned to the White House after his speech, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, who he called 'an outstanding ambassador of goodwill' during her talks with Gorbachev's wife, Raisa.

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'Thanks, partner,' Reagan said to the first lady, who watched from the visitors gallery.

Aboard Air Force One en route back to Washington, U.S. arms expert Paul Nitze told reporters that the Soviets had 'tried their level best to break down our position without offering anything in return.'

'But they did not get away with it,' he declared.

Nitze also said 'the president had the better' of the exchanges with Gorbachev and that the Star Wars issue is 'in a different league now.'

Addressing Soviet fears, Reagan said, 'I made it clear that SDI has nothing to do with offensive weapons; that, instead, we are investigating non-nuclear defensive systems that would only threaten offensive missiles, not people.'

Saying such a system could help 'mankind, at long last, escape the prison of mutual terror,' Reagan said he renewed to Gorbachev his promise to share such an anti-missile system with other nations as a way to eliminate al nuclear weapons.

On global troublespots, Reagan said, 'I explained my proposal for a peace process to stop the wars in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Angola and Cambodia. ... I tried to be very clear about where our sympathies lie; I believe I succeeded.'

Reagan also made clear where he thought credit for the successes of Geneva should go -- his policies to rebuild America, both militarily and economically.

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'In a very real sense, preparations for the summit started not months ago, but five years ago when -- with the help of Congress -- we began strengthening our economy, restoring our national will, and rebuilding our defenses and alliances,' he said.

'America is once again strong -- and our strength has given us the ability to speak with confidence and see that no true opportunity to advance freedom and peace is lost,' he said, adding, 'We must not now abandon policies that work. I need your continued support to keep America strong.'

On the touchy issue of his Strategic Defense Initiative, which has emerged as the major point of contention in the arms talks, Reagan said he 'welcomed the chance' to make his case for why the superpower powers should move away from deterring war through the threat of massive retaliation.

However, he did not mention Gorbachev's cold response on this issue, the question of human rights in the Soviet Union or the subject of Moscow's support of insurgencies in the Third World.

'I tried to be very clear about where our sympathies lie,' he said. 'I believe I succeeded.'

Greeted by top congressional leaders at Andrews Air Force Base, Reagan flew with them by helicopter to the Capitol to report to a joint meeting of Congress and a prime-time television audience numbering in the tens of millions.

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Richard Nixon made the same dramatic gesture in 1972 on his return from the Moscow summit where he and Leonid Brezhnev signed the SALT 1 treaty.

Echoing the hopeful tone of his remarks in Geneva and subsequent report to allied leaders in Brussels, Reagan said 'the best part' of the summit was its personal side: his one-on-one discussions with Gorbachev.

'We met, as we had to meet. I had called for a fresh start and we made that start,' he said. 'I can't claim we had a meeting of the minds on such fundamentals as ideology or national purpose, but we understand each other better. That's key to peace.'

One week earlier, in a televised address from the Oval Office, Reagan voiced hope the summit would serve not as a showcase for agreements, but as the start of a process leading to 'a foundation for lasting peace.'

Although Reagan spent much of his first term opposed to the notion of a 'get-acquainted' summit, the Geneva summit was characterized as just that by U.S. officials who lauded its 'personal dynamics' and said he and Gorbachev had eased the hostilities between their nations by getting to know one another.

En route to Brussels on Air Force One, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said Reagan was filled with a 'sense of accomplishment.' While Reagan remains 'hopeful about the future,' Speakes said, 'It remains to be seen where progress had been made.'

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Reagan, who denounced the Soviet Union in his first term as 'an evil empire,' portrayed the summit as a milestone in his effort to deal with Moscow 'in a way that was more realistic than in the recent past.'

At the Capitol, where security was tight, members of Congress and the political elite lined up with words of praise, tempered by cautious predictions of where the summit will lead.

Senate Republican leader Robert Dole called Geneva 'a hopeful beginning to a process of dialogue and negotiations which we hope will become more comprehensive and bring more concrete progress in the future.'

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., termed the meeting 'a long overdue icebreaker between the two superpowers.'

House Democratic leaders, in a statement, said the talks 'have begun the important process of reducing tensions,' but added they 'had hoped for more substantive progress in arms control, human rights and regional conflict.'

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