Bush refuses to pass judgment on Gorbachev new powers

By HELEN THOMAS UPI White House Reporter  |  March 13, 1990
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WASHINGTON -- President Bush refused to pass judgment Tuesday on broad new presidential powers granted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and urged a 'peaceful resolution' of the volatile dispute over Lithuania's secession.

At a free-wheeling televised morning news conference in the White House press room called to announce an $800 million aid package for Nicaragua and Panama, Bush gingerly fielded a raft of other sensitive foreign policy problems.

Asked about Gorbachev's victory Tuesday in gaining expanded powers from the Congress of Peoples' Deputies, Bush said: 'I stay out of the internal affairs and deliberations of the Soviet Union. They are going through' processes of reform 'that we support.'

'I think we have a good relationship and I'm going to continue to work with him,' the president added.

Bush also said that no date or place has been pinned down for the next summit meeting with Gorbachev, which is expected to take place between June 15 and 25 in Washington and perhaps another location.

Responding to a question, Bush said the United States was not prepared to accord diplomatic recognition to Lithuania 'because we want to see the evolution of the control of the territory there and because we want to see a peaceful resolution of this situation.'

The Lithuanian Parliament declared itself an independent republic Sunday, but the next day Gorbachev ruled out any negotiations with Lithuania or its Baltic neighbors.

Surprisingly, Bush told reporters, 'I wouldn't use that term' when asked if Lithuania was a 'captive native.'

For a span of several years the White House has annually issued a 'Captive Nations' proclamation calling for freedom for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- three nations whose annexation just before World War II has never been recognized by the United States.

'We rejoice as people are permitted the free expression that we take for granted in this country,' he said, 'and clearly there is a great deal of interest in working this out -- the Lithuanians working this out with the Soviet Union.'

Bush said there were no plans at present for sending aid to the economically strapped Soviet Union, and added that Gorbachev has not asked for food assistance. But he added that 'the answer is to help in a technical way ... with know how to establish free markets.'

The president added 'there are all kinds of things down the road' to assist the Soviet Union, including an Eastern Development Bank but he was not ready to discuss them.

The president, perfectly at home on the podium and presiding at what press secretary Marlin Fitzwater called his 43rd news conference, discussed a broad range of other foreign developments:

--He did not regret saying the United States opposes Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem remark worried American Jewish groups, who believe Israel has a right to maintain a presence there. Bush said he thought the issue had been 'blown out of proportion in the last few days' and any further speculation on this 'highly emotional' issue would be counterproductive.

--Bush expressed disappointment for the first time over the slow pace of reform in China, saying 'I'm not happy with the status quo.' He held out hope his conciliatory policy 'will bear more fruit.'

--He is convinced his recent talks with Japanese leaders on the growing trade rift with the United States has left them 'with a better understanding' of the growing support for protectionism in Congress.

--Hinted that the full story of his acceptance of the hoax telephone call and efforts to win release of the American hostages in Lebanon has not been revealed. 'When the whole story comes out on this, you all are going to be very, very fascinated with this.'

--Despite reports to the contrary, he insisted Defense Secretary Richard Cheney and CIA Director William Webster 'are pretty close together' in views on the Soviet Union with neither believing that Moscow will go back to the aggressive eighties. The differences may stem from an assessment of future Soviet intentions, he said.

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