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Utah school children offered tokens of peace and officials hailed the arrival Saturday of 22 Soviet inspectors in Salt Lake City as a first step toward the elimination of the world's nuclear arsenal.

The inspectors were met Saturday afternoon by U.S. officials, a handful of adults and 13 cheering Magna school children holding a banner saying, "Utah Welcomes Soviets" at the Utah Air National Guard airstrip, 765 N. 22nd West."It is generally accepted that the INF treaty is an important stage in the relations between our two countries, a first step toward the saving of mankind from the threat of nuclear annihilation," Anatoly Samarin, Soviet inspection team leader, said through an interpreter. "Its successful implementation will contribute to the confidence-building between our countries."

The Soviet team's presence comes after President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty Dec. 8. The Soviet team will be in Utah for up to 13 years inspecting operations at the Hercules plant, where Pershing II missile motors were once built.

The inspectors arrived in Utah after an hourlong flight on a C-141 military cargo plane from Travis Air Force Base. They had spent the night at the base, about 50 miles east of San Francisco, after arriving from the Soviet Union on a IL-62 Aeroflot jetliner. They joined another inspector who arrived in Salt Lake City early last week.

Col. George Connell, with the On-site Inspection Agency, said the crowd at the airstrip was a witness to a "historic occasion." It will be the first time Soviets will physically verify terms of a treaty.

"They, like their American counterparts in the Soviet Union, will be working toward the spirit of a better world," Connell said.

Utah Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen added, "Utah is very proud to be part of this history-making event as it relates to world peace."

After the press conference the inspectors boarded a military bus and were driven a few blocks to the Sun Arbor Apartments on North Temple, where they will live until permanent housing is constructed near Hercules.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Jim Szatkowski, the inspectors spent Saturday afternoon unpacking and settling into their new surroundings.

Robyn Levesque, PTA president of Magna's Copper Hills Elementary School, who welcomed the Soviets, said that Magna residents want to make the inspectors part of their community.

"We want to work together with them, maybe even have them come to our schools. We want the children to understand that Russians are people too," she said.

The children prepared 1,000 folded paper cranes to give the Soviets. The birds are symbolic of peace. A Hiroshima schoolgirl stricken with cancer after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city made similar cranes hoping it would cure her, Levesque said.

Ironically, the Soviet arrival comes almost 43 years to the day after the U.S. government detonated the world's first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert. The test took place on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo.

In addition to the team deployed in Utah, 48 other inspectors broke up into four groups at Travis Air Force Base for 24-hour visits at sites of their choice. Locations in the West from which those inspectors may choose are at Dugway Proving Ground, Pueblo Army Depot in Colorado, Fort Huachuca and Davis-Monathan Air Force Base in Arizona, and the General Dynamics Corp. facility in San Diego, designated as Air Force Plant 19.

Officials in Washington, D.C., could not be reached Saturday to confirm whether one team would visit Dugway. These so-called "baseline inspections" can be conducted during the next two months to verify the locations, numbers and types of items limited by the treaty.

While the Hercules plant is the only full-time location at which the Soviets will operate, the inspectors will be involved in related spot checks at more than 25 sites in the United States and in Western Europe. Likewise, American inspectors, although permanently stationed at Votkinsk, will also be monitoring more than 130 locations in the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc.