President Reagan, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, held out the possibility of major reductions in United States and Soviet strategic arms. But he also underlined that conflicts with the Soviet Union remain on such diverse issues as Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Central America.
He also called upon the UN to take punitive measures against Iran if it refused to accept a UN resolution calling for a cease-fire, withdrawal from occupied territory, and negotiations to end the Iran-Iraq war.
In what is likely to be his penultimate speech before the UN, Mr. Reagan returned to many of the same themes that he has propounded for the past seven years in office. But he also used the occasion to review world events during those years, and he hailed what he termed a redirection in the course of international affairs.
The guiding force behind this redirection, Reagan said, was ``the yearnings of the human heart.'' Many of these ``yearnings'' echoed his own themes - less government intervention in the marketplace, lowered taxes, fewer government controls.
``We have only to open our eyes to see the simple aspirations of ordinary people writ large on the record of our times,'' he said.
These ``simple aspirations,'' the President said, had led in many areas to the spread of democracy, a surge in economic growth, and an end to ``statist'' prescriptions for the future.
But Reagan questioned whether the changes now taking place in the Soviet Union fully took into account the strength of these human aspirations.
``We hear much about changes in the Soviet Union,'' said the President. ``We hear the word glasnost, which is translated as `openness.' In English, `openness' is a broad term. It means the free, unfettered flow of information, ideas, and people. It means political and intellectual liberty in all its dimensions. We hope, for the sake of the people of the USSR, that such changes will come.''
In response, the official Soviet news agency Tass said Reagan had made ``a list of demands,'' and added, ``There was not even a hint of any kind of readiness for a change in thinking and politics from the American side.''
Criticizing governments that ``believe in dictatorship - whether by one man, one party, one class, one race, or one vanguard,'' Reagan said, ``the price of oppression is clear.''
``Your economies will fall farther and farther behind. Your people will become more restless.''
The President moved beyond general criticism of Marxist-Leninist and authoritarian regimes and pointed up unreconciled differences between the US and the USSR.
He criticized the Soviets for making moves that are ``not helpful'' in ending the Gulf war between Iran and Iraq. Stating that ``in no place on earth today is peace more in need of friends than in the Middle East,'' Reagan called for Iran to state ``clearly and unequivocally'' whether it accepts UN resolutions calling for an end to the Gulf war.
If Iran does not, said the President, the UN Security Council has ``no choice'' but to adopt ``enforcement measures'' - presumably including an arms embargo against Iran. The Iranian delegation was absent during Reagan's remarks.
The President said the US does ``not seek confrontation or trouble with Iran or anyone else.'' But he stressed that oil reserves in the Gulf ``are of strategic importance to the economies of the free world. We are committed to maintaining the free flow of this oil and to preventing the domination of the region by any hostile power.''
Reagan also used tough words in assessing conflicts in Afghanistan and Central America. He said ``it's time for the Soviet Union to leave'' Afghanistan after ``nearly eight years, a million casualties, nearly 4 million others driven into exile, and more intensive fighting than ever....'' And he pledged continued support for the contra rebels fighting the government of Nicaragua.
US policy toward Nicaragua is ``simple,'' said the President.
``It is democracy - real, free, pluralistic, constitutional democracy. Understand this: We will not, and the world community will not, accept phony `democratization' designed to mask the perpetuation of dictatorship.''
Even as Reagan spoke, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua was enacting a series of reform measures - such as allowing the opposition newspaper, La Prensa, to resume publication - in accord with a peace plan advanced by Central American nations. But Reagan called for more-radical steps.
``Now is the time to shut down your military machine ... end your stranglehold on internal political activity ... hold free elections,'' he said. Otherwise, he said, ```democratization' will be a fraud.''