US seeks Europe's support for `star wars'

The United States in recent days has waged an unusual campaign to win political and economic support from its allies for the controversial Space Defense Initiative (SDI). The drive, referred to as a ``blitz'' by one official, involved Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, White House science adviser George A. Keyworth II, Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson Jr., director of the SDI program, and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt. It has included a series of visits to European nations and talks in Washington with Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke.

The campaign may have moved the West German government cautiously closer to supporting the US defensive plan against incoming missiles. In an address over the weekend to a high-level defense seminar in Munich, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl seemed to back European participation in the SDI program.

The next day his defense minister, Manfred W"orner, referring to the US policy of restricting high technology transfers to its allies as well as its adversaries, said such cooperation could be possible only if the restrictions were lifted and ``there are no more secrets between allies.''

The US team's drive among the European allies preceded President Reagan's comments this week that seemed to rule out any negotiation on the so-called ``star wars'' program and immediately raised concern in Europe about the impact of this position on the US-Soviet negotiations set to resume in Geneva March 12.

Mr. Weinberger and the others who came to Europe this past week also seemed to be confronted with continuing doubt and hesitation about the wisdom of the SDI program. Both French and British officials attending the Munich meeting voiced concern about the program's impact on defense spending, the arms race, and a split in the Western alliance.

Acknowledging this split, Assistant Secretary of State Burt said Wednesday at NATO headquarters that ``it's no secret that there are different views'' on the space initiative. ``This is why we are working so hard,'' he said. ``It is important to have the views of our allies to establish a consensus.''

As part of this effort, Weinberger and Dr. Keyworth have apparently dangled the possibility of European space industry participation in some of the multibillion-dollar contracts for the SDI work. This has reportedly built up a noticeable amount of positive interest among German aerospace firms.

The defense official in Brussels who called the US campaign ``a blitz'' added that the US seemed anxious ``to avoid the pitfalls of the Euromissile deployment and have the Soviet Union capitalize on Western divisions.'' He said there was a pronounced split on SDI among the allies and he questioned whether the US was really consulting its allies or just informing them of decisions already taken, hoping to win belated support. -- 30 -- {et

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