Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
This is a kind of test of NATO's influence with the weather," said President Carter Tuesday night welcoming leaders of the 15 NATO countries to the first formal dinner his administration has staged in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The weather cooperated, and so did the roses, which were abundant and in full bloom along the borders of the dining area. The guests, including representatives of most of the world's great wine-growing countries, sipped American wine under Japanese lanterns in an atmosphere of easy friendship and hospitality after a hard day of political-military discussions.
Amy Carter, who did not attend the dinner, came out afterward to hear the toasts, sitting on her mother's lap and sipping (presumably water) from a goblet.
The sunny atmosphere in which the meal began lasted through the dinner and in conversations as guests strolled across the torchlit South Lawn for an open-air performance by the New York City Ballet.
Presidential adviser Zbigniew Brezezinski, who had been called a liar earlier in the day by a cuban representative in the United Nations, took the attack calmly. "I thought they were true to their established record of veracity," he said.
The Cuban had branded as "absolutely false and based on impudently repeated lies" the American charge that Cubans were active in Zaire.
"I thought it offensive and inappropriate," said Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.
U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young laughed it off. "The United Nations is a forum for getting things off your chest - he got it off his chest," Young said. "It's part of the day's work, listening to the rhetoric."
The rhetoric in the toasts at the White House dinner was considerably milder.
"We are not only your friends, we are your kinfolks, your relatives," President Carter told the foreign dignitaries. "Throughout our country, there are tens of million of Americans who look to your countries as their homelands."
The evening's friendly note began on the White House North Portico, where the Carters stood for about a half hour, welcoming the heads of government and foreign ministers of the 14 other NATO countries and NATO Secretary General Joseph M.A.H. Luns.
The limousines, which were greeted by an honor guard stationed along the driveway, did not arrive in order of precedence (except that Luns came in first) because they were coming from various locations and the logistics would have been too complicated.
"We had a good meeting," Greek Prime Minister Constantine Caramanlis told Carter. He arrived on the heels of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who was cordially welcomed by the Carters and brought over to be introduced to a Turkish journalist who was observing the scene. The journalist thanked the American president for introducing her to her own prime minister.
When she asked Carter whether she could question him about what he and Ecevit would discuss yesterday, he replied humorously, "You can ask me," then walked off before she could.
The Carters welcomed British Prime Minister and Mrs. James Callaghan enthusiastically, exchanging big hugs that went beyond the demands of protocol. They also had a brief conversation with Louis de Guiringaud, the French foreign minister. "She wants to come back (to France)," said Carter, pointing to the first lady."We invite you to come," said the French representative.
At the dinner, President Carter shared his table with Ecevit ("I've learned a lot about politics from him," he commented later) and with Gen. Alexander Haig, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, who has been mentioned as a possible Republican presidential candidate. Haig dismissed these rumors with "I've seen it all before." He said the opening meeting of the NATO summit was "very, very successful, because it was well prepared, a culmination of a year of very intensive work."
He said that the Soviet-Cuban penetration of Africa was "not on the agenda," although the idea of a multi-national peace-keeping force under NATO auspices had been introduced.
Andrew Young said he thought that "75 to 80 percent of French-speaking Africans would welcome such a force," but that "it's got to be something Africa wants to do and not something we push on them.
"I would prefer United Nations peace-keeping forces," he said, adding that the situation in Africa could not be more difficult than that in Lebanon.
Secretary Vance, in a particularly bouyant mood, said that Tuesday's talks had been "a very good exchange; everybody talked extremely frankly to one another."
The evening ended with the New York City Ballet performing on an open-air stage on the South Lawn.