Ministers Set to Endorse Rights and Arms Package

THIRTY-FOUR foreign ministers are in Vienna to endorse a disarmament and human rights package hailed as a breakthrough in East-West relations. The ministers began a three-day meeting Tuesday, during which they will formally approve the final document of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), worked out over 27 months of hard bargaining.

They are scheduled to endorse a new set of talks on reducing conventional forces in Europe, due to open in March, and a package of proposals on improving human rights and economic cooperation in Europe.

The package was hailed as a milestone in East-West relations by all participants except Romania when adopted Sunday. Romania, generally considered to have the worst rights record in the East bloc, said it would not feel obliged to implement provisions ``to which it does not agree or which it considers inadequate.''

Czechoslovakia is expected to face criticism during the closing session. Its security forces attacked thousands of demonstrators in Prague Sunday, the day it adopted the CSCE document.

The new rights proposals cover freedom of movement and religion, privacy of mail and telephone communications, the right to listen to foreign broadcasts, and tighter time limits for processing travel applications.

For the first time, governments will be able to raise suspected human rights abuses at any time. If no action is taken, allegations can be put on the agenda at a series of three annual follow-up conferences on human rights.

The new arms talks will range from the Atlantic to the Urals, an area more than 10 times larger than that covered by the unsuccessful 15-year-old Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction negotiations in Vienna that they are designed to replace.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Manfred W"orner said the alliance would seek cuts in Warsaw Pact forces at the new arms talks so that the two blocs held equal levels of heavy weapons systems, such as tanks and artillery.

``We believe that they [the talks] offer the prospect of substantial improvements in the security and stability of Europe,'' he said, adding that the allies were pleased that progress in the security field had been accompanied by advances on rights.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.