Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he is "quite sure" a summit meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will take place this year, asserting that such a meeting has become all the more urgent to clear an air of mistrust created by Moscow's failure to inform the West promptly about the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster earlier this month.
In a wide-ranging interview Monday that touched on, among others, the issue of combating terrorism, the West German leader said: "I have not the slightest doubt that the trail of blood from the Berlin disco bombing leads to Tripoli. There's no doubt that the logistical support for the bomb blast in West Berlin came from the Libyan People's Bureau [embassy] in East Berlin. There are indications that Syria may have had a role in recent bomb attacks in West Germany but this is currently under investigation. Suspicion exists, however."
Kohl did not elaborate on his reference to Syria, which appeared to be limited to the earlier bombing of a German-Arab friendship society in West Berlin.
He said the Tokyo summit earlier this month created a new degree of decisiveness among the industrialized countries to act jointly to quell terrorism, at least with economic means.
"We still must improve the exchange of information among our respective authorities. We, as Germans, are prepared for that. In the economic sphere, we are moving to reduce our presence in Libya. The level of our guaranteed credit to German companies doing business there has fallen to 6 billion deutsche marks [$2.6 billion] from 13 billion [$5.7 billion], and the number of West Germans working in Libya is down to some 1,200, which I assume is lower than that for most other European countries, perhaps also for the United States."
Kohl also expressed reservations on the U.S. bombing raid on Libya April 15, saying, "I warned our American friends that this attack wouldn't do much good and that [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi's position would not be weakened. I did, however, have understanding for the psychological impulse for the Americans."
Kohl described as "scandalous" the Soviet Union's failure to be forthcoming about details and potential dangers surrounding the Chernobyl accident.
Referring to the prospect of a second superpower summit, Kohl said, "It's essential that the world's two most important leaders continue the process of talking and getting to know each other. More trust has to be created, but the Chernobly incident did nothing to that end."
"The Soviet leadership, in a completely inexplicable manner, elevated mistrust in the entire world by its information blockade. A major part of the problems we encounter in arms control talks is that of verification, that is, the ability to confirm that disarmament is talking place. The Soviet side, since Chernobyl, has not reduced the West's concerns about verification but rather increased them significantly."
Kohl said he hoped the anticipated second meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev would seek to improve East-West relations on a broad front, including disarmament, extension of economic and cultural ties and the easing of emigration and travel restrictions. He said a host of specific arms issues could be addressed, including chemical weapons deployment and a nuclear weapons test moratorium.
Gorbachev was reported Monday to have told a group of visiting British politicians that he still favors a second meeting with President Reagan, but only if the summit holds out the hope of reaching an arms control agreement.
The Chernobyl affair, Kohl asserted, has dealt a "tremendous blow" to Gorbachev's so-called peace offensive in Western Europe. While Moscow's handling of the accident may quiet anti-NATO sentiment in West Germany and elsewhere the reactor disaster itself has given a marked boost of support for the leftist-ecologist Green party, which is both antinuclear and anti-NATO, the West German leader acknowledged. He said, however, that the Chernobyl factor would fade by January's national elections.
Kohl donceded that growing anxiety about nuclear power may be enough to tip a pivotal June 15 regional election in Lower Saxony, where a huge 70 percent of electrical power is generated by nuclear reactors, to the Social Democratic and Green opposition. He insisted, however, that a potential loss of control at the Lower Saxony election, which would mean the forfeit of control in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, would not change his intention of leading his Christian Democratic Party into the Jan. 25, 1986, national ballot.