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NICETIES KEPT SUMMITEERS FROM A SLUGFEST

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When a small plane carrying Soviet bloc weapons to leftist rebels in El Salvador crashed late last month, it looked like a propaganda windfall for President Bush for his meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

But Bush's advantage was neutralized when word leaked out three days before the summit of the crash of a CIA flight with a load of weapons for anti-communist rebels in Angola.Upbeat post-summit comments notwithstanding, the two leaders continue to have some serious disagreements. And were it not for the diplomatic niceties observed at such events, they could have had a conversation that sounded something like this:

Bush: Comrade, you have no business arming those guerrillas in El Salvador. After all, that's a country trying to make the transition to democracy.

Gorbachev: We don't arm them. Some of our other socialist friends in the area may be arming them, but we can't control those countries any more than you can control the death squads in El Salvador. Besides, I support the right of the Salvadoran people to rise up against their oppressive rulers.

Bush: It's obvious these Salvadoran terrorists don't have the support of the people. And it's not in our interest to have a bloodthirsty communist dictatorship take power in a country just two days' drive from Harlingen, Texas.

Gorbachev: Well, if geography is so important, why do you continue arming the Afghan Mujahedeen. If they win, that would mean another enemy regime right on our border.

Bush: The Mujahedeen are not expansionist. They'll be a lot more respectful of the Soviet Union than the Cubans are of the United States. Instead of plotting against us, Castro should be doing more to help his own people. Sending 50,000 troops to Angola was reprehensible.

Gorbachev: The Cubans were sent there to fight the racist South Africans. It was a noble exercise. By sending all that weaponry to those ruthless guerrilla friends of yours in Angola, you're only prolonging the war there.

Bush: I can't talk about our military involvement in Angola because it's a covert operation.

Gorbachev: You think glasnost is good for everybody but yourselves. What are you up to in Angola?

Bush: I can't comment on that.

Gorbachev: We showed our interest in peace by pulling our troops out of Afghanistan and encouraging the Cubans to start withdrawing their forces from Angola. You Americans have done nothing for peace.

Bush: We stopped arming the Nicaraguan Contras.

Gorbachev: Only because the Congress forced you to. If you had your way, you would be sending Midgetman missiles to the Contras.

Bush: My administration has not asked for a single weapon for the Contras even though they are liberty-lovin' democrats.

Gorbachev: President Ortega is a democrat. He has scheduled elections for Feb. 25.

Bush: Ortega was dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way. It remains to be seen whether the elections will be honest. What they need in Nicaragua is less Marxism and a good dose of supply side economics.

Gorbachev: Like Nicaragua used to have under Somoza?

Bush: You're not defending Marxist economics, are you? Have you noticed what the people of Eastern Europe have been saying about Marxist economics lately?

Gorbachev: I thought we were talking about Third World conflicts.

Bush: You mean like El Salvador, where Soviet behavior has been so disreputable?

Gorbachev: You are preventing the Salvadoran people from restoring their dignity. And what you are doing in Angola is classic case of imperialist aggression.

Bush: You're talking like Brezhnev more and more every day.

Gorbachev: And you sound like Reagan used to. I'm just waiting for you to call us the "evil empire." I thought this was supposed to be a "feet up" summit.

Bush: This is not a summit. This is an informal meeting that sets up the summit.