Gorbachev's return puts erstwhile allies off balance

READ SCOTT MARTIN, United Press International

The restoration of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev elicited Western cheers but seemed to baffle the world's remaining Communist and socialist regimes.

''I think it's a good day for (the) U.S.-Soviet relationship,'' President Bush said, ''because I think that the fear that some of us had -- many people have had, actually -- about right-wing takeovers will no longer be as extant.''


Bush spoke with Gorbachev by telephone Wednesday and the relieved president said later those bent on repression had ''underestimated democracy and freedom.''

''They tried and they failed. And democracy prevailed and reform prevailed,'' Bush said. ''That's what this is all about. So I expect the relationship to be, if anything, even better.''

Israeli officials welcomed Gorbachev's return to power and expressed confidence the Middle East peace process would get back on track.

''We followed the tragic happenings in the Soviet Union with anxiety because they might have affected future generations,'' said Foreign Minister David Levy. ''But now hope has returned.

Reactions by Moscow's former Eastern European client states were characteristically buoyant, as the telegram by Czechoslovakia's President Vaclav Havel welcoming Gorbachev's return:

''I received with joy the news of your return to the position of president of the U.S.S.R.,'' Havel cabled. ''I am certain that all others who would like to consider changing (the government) by violence will prefer to quickly forget their dreams.''


Polish President Lech Walesa said he felt closer to Gorbachev because they share the experience of detention. ''I welcome Mr. Gorbachev in freedom. I hope he does not undergo any more such experiences on his way to reform.''

But he said Gorbachev's troubles may not be over. ''The real dangers and real problems will appear when real reforms are introduced. There are no real reforms in the Soviet Union.''

The German government welcomed the collapse of the coup and urged continuation of reforms.

''This is a great victory for the people in the Soviet Union and particularly for the Russian democrats around Boris Yeltsin,'' said Rudolf Seiters, senior aide to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who is vacationing in Austria.

The communist governments of Cuba and China, by contrast, were largely unresponsive. China's official news agency Xinhua seemed stunned into silence by the swift unraveling of the plot Wednesday.

But China on Thursday retreated from its tacit support of the coup, acknowledging Gorbachev as ''the choice the Soviet people made.''

Official Chinese media coverage of the crisis had left little doubt that Beijing welcomed the hard-line crackdown on the Soviet Union's accelerating trend toward political liberalization.

News from Moscow by the official Xinhua News Agency was hours and sometimes days behind the dramatic events that reinvigorated the rule of Gorbachev and Yeltsin.


Cuba's fence-sitting apppeared to be an attempt to remain on good terms with whatever political group ended up in power in the Soviet Union, the primary source of economic support for the island nation.

The leadership did not take sides and did not issue a statement acknowledging the coup until late Tuesday.

The Indian government, which this month renewed a 20-year friendship pact with Moscow, remained officially silent on Gorbachev's return to power.

Arjun Singh, the leader of the Congress (I) Party in the lower house of Parliament, defended Thursday the government's reluctance to make public comments about Soviet internal affairs during the course of the three-day crisis, saying it was a ''diplomatic reticence'' borne of years of close relations between the two countries.

One lawmaker accused Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and his Congress (I) Party government of ''glued timidity.''

In Japan, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu praised ''the determination and courage'' of the Soviet people.

Japan halted all economic aid to the Soviet Union on Monday. Leaders of Japan's business community said the developments would help Soviet economic restructuring.

The Palestine Liberation Organization tried to disassociate itself from statements by Palestinian leaders applauding Gorbachev's apparent ouster.

The recent developments in the Soviet Union were ''pure Soviet internal affairs,'' according to a PLO statement released Wednesday night in Tunis.


The Marxist Palestinian guerrilla organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, led by George Habash, had welcomed the overthrowing of Gorbachev, who the organization said inflicted harm on the Arabs.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was the first Arab leader to congratulate Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

''We congratulate your excellency on the trust and confidence the Soviet people had shown in foiling the coup,'' Mubarak said in a congratulatory cable.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati was quoted Thursday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency as congratulating Gorbachev but saying, ''Iran maintains that internal issues of the Soviet Union only concern the Soviet people.''

Jordan's King Hussein congratulated Gorbachev in a telegram that said, ''The crushing of the coup was a victory for legitimacy and democracy,'' Amman radio said.

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