Chicago Sun Times

Gorbachev charms 'em

By Jerome Idaszak
Washington Bureau
Chicago Sun Times

WASHINGTON - Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev ended his sumit visit here the way he began it - playing the role of "the great communicator."

In conversations Thursday with U.S. business leaders, high school students and a group of folks on a Washington street corner, Gorbachev sought to go past U.S. leaders with direct appeals to the people to help thaw icy feelings between the two nations.

"I can't say that we have made much headway in the discussion of these problems," Gorbachev said at a press conference just before leaving Washington at the end of his three-day meeting with President Reagan.

But then, getting animated, he recalled how he had stopped his ZIL limousine and got out to shake hands with people standing on Connecticut Avenue Thursay to view his motorcade to the White House.

"I could feel their sentiments," he said of the crowd. "I said, 'Look, that's what we're talking with the president about - how to come closer to each other, how to improve our cooperation.'

"So go ahead and prod the president towards that. Our Soviet people are solidly prodding us toward that goal."

Speaking of his meeting with a group of U.S. teenagers, he said, "Both American and Soviet kids seem to come to terms together much faster than we proper politicians. Before we come to terms, we have to get rid of complexes and obstacles standing in the way."

He recalled that he urged and audience of 80 U.S. business leaders who came to the Soviet Embassy Thursday afternoon to "be partners, not adversaries."

In his wake, he charmed those who met him.

"Greetings, greetings," Gorbachev said as he shook hands in the crowd of about 25 people who were stunned to see the Kremlin leader step from his limousine. Then he raised his hands toward the sky and began saying, "World peace, world peace."

Several people later described the moment as "very special."

As had groups of academics, news media executives and legislators in the first two days of his visit, the businessmen Thursday applauded Gorbachev.

Walter Klein, chairman of the big U.S. grain shipping company Bunge Corp., said, "He was very much speaking as an American would, rather than as a Russian would. He is a great communicator. You could tell that those in the room, particularly those who haven't ealt with the Soviets for a long time, were very charmed.

But with the charm comes purpose.

One major sticking point in more business between the two countries has been that U.S. law whose purpose is to secure emigration of Jews and others from the Soviet Union. The U.S. business leaders questioned effectiveness of the law, and Gorbachev no doubt would like their help in getting a modification.

"There is an understaning that changes are necessary." Gorbachev said after his meeting with the business group.

"I wish to assure Americans that, in the Soviet people, they have a reliable partnership that concerns peace, cooperation and continued progress for all," Gorbachev said in his news conference.

Gorbachev added that he would lide to come to the United States "when the situation changes and when this process is under way," and visit with people outside the two square miles in which he spent most of his four days here.

"You're now running third in the Iowa primary," joked Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, at the busness meeting with Gorbachev.

"But I've already got a job," Gorbachev replied, smiling at the populatiry he has won.