BONN, JUNE 22 -- The leaders of France and West Germany appealed jointly today for speedy organization of a large-scale Western aid program to help Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev rescue his country's economy.
The urgent call from President Francois Mitterrand of France and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, at a summit conference beside the Rhine, foreshadowed intensive new efforts by the two leaders to win Europe-wide backing for a Soviet aid package at a European Community summit conference scheduled Monday and Tuesday in Dublin.
Beyond their European partners, however, Kohl and Mitterrand also aimed their plea at the United States and Japan, whose political and financial cooperation would be vital to any Western effort to bolster Gorbachev's reforms in Moscow. The Franco-German appeal focused particular attention on Washington, where the Bush administration is now confronted with a public request from two major U.S. allies to join in aiding Gorbachev.
Kohl said Thursday that he has urged in letters to President Bush and other leaders of the seven major industrial democracies that they take up the issue at their summit conference next month in Houston. Similarly, Mitterrand said in an interview Tuesday that the West should think about organizing technological and economic aid for the Soviet Union in recognition of Gorbachev's reform efforts.
Neither Kohl nor Mitterrand appeared convinced by repeated arguments in Washington and London that large-scale economic assistance to the Soviet Union would be sending money down the drain until Gorbachev's restructuring, or perestroika, establishes true market reforms. The French leader, reversing the arguments, said such reforms will be possible only with aid from the West.
"I do not think we have a lot of time," added Kohl at a news conference with Mitterrand in the riverside town of Assmannshausen. "Perestroika is something that helps us all."
Kohl and his foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, have appeared particularly eager in recent weeks to deal with Soviet economic and strategic concerns. Moscow's reluctance to see East Germany meld into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has become a major sticking point as East and West Germany move swiftly toward unification by the end of this year.
The government in Bonn announced today, for example, that West Germany is offering guarantees for up to $3 billion in bank loans to the Soviet Union. In talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Genscher also has discussed West German financial support for Soviet troops to remain in what is now East Germany during a transition period and to help resettle those who return to the Soviet Union after unification.
Bonn spokesman Hans Klein said there is no direct relation between the loan and these negotiations with Moscow. But he added, "What is currently taking place in the process of German reunification would not have happened . . . without reforms in the Soviet Union."
Mitterrand noted that the French-initiated European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will only begin making loans next year. The Soviet economy requires help before that, he added.