Reagan tries to avoid controversy

In his two-day visit to Spain, President Reagan will be faced with some contentious issues. But US officials say he plans to make no official statement about Spain's pending referendum on its NATO membership or the question of US bases in Spain in order to avoid any more controversy after the problem-plagued visit to the Bitburg military cemetary in West Germany.

Mr. Reagan arrived late Monday afternoon and was greeted at the airport by King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez, and other Spanish political luminaries. The hundreds of thousands who protested his visit Sunday, calling for Spain to withdraw from NATO and expel the 12,000 American troops based here, were safely off the streets.

Reagan's schedule calls for only one major address, to be given today. The talk, entitled ``Economy and Freedom,'' is to focus on the issues discussed at this weekend's Bonn economic summit, according to US officials. It also expected to praise Spain's successful transition to a free-market economy and democracy.

King Juan Carlos is to play host to Mr. Reagan Tuesday evening at a sumptuous state dinner and will also confer with him at El Pardo palace. At 9:30 Wednesday, Reagan leaves Spain for Strasbourg, France, where he is to address the European Parliament.

Despite the apparently benign nature of the itinerary, the US President will have to be careful. He will have two working meetings with Prime Minister Gonz'alez. In one, the two men will chat while they walk together through the Moncloa Gardens. Spanish officials say the serious issues of Spain's NATO membership and its American military bases will be discussed. Spanish disquiet with US policy in Nicaragua also will make its way into the conversation.

As tough as these private talks may be, the other real fear about the visit is the possibility of a terrorist attack. A bomb that recently killed 18 people in a restaurant outside Madrid was aimed at US servicemen from the air base at Torrijon.

Middle East terrorists or a domestic group may have been responsible for that attack. US officials here lean toward the domestic theory, either Basque terrorists or one of the various violent right- or left-wing groups that are active here.

Strict, unpublicized security measures are being taken.

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