Mikhail S. Gorbachev, delivering his Nobel Peace lecture, appealed Wednesday for Western aid to bolster his endangered reforms, saying their failure would jeopardize "a new peaceful period in history."
The address, delivered at Oslo City Hall, was the Soviet president's most cogent appeal yet for Western help to integrate his country into a peaceful new world order.While not mentioning the independence-minded Baltic republics directly in his address, Gorbachev said ethnic and political conflicts could rip the country apart.
The speech, which had been delayed since Dec. 10 by ethnic, nationalist and economic crises in the Soviet Union, was interrupted twice by hecklers, who were led out of the hall without incident.
"We are now approaching what might be called the crucial point, when the world community, and above all the states with the greatest potential to influence world developments, will have to decide on their stance with regard to the Soviet Union," Gorbachev said.
The Soviet president seeks a summit with President Bush by the end of the month and wants to participate in a Western economic summit in London July 15-17.
In Washington, U.S. officials said Bush had no objections to Gorbachev's attendance at the London summit.
The officials said Bush called British Prime Minister John Major, host of the annual meeting of the seven industrialized nations, informing him of the decision, paving the way for Gorbachev to receive the invitation he had sought.
They said Gorbachev's role, either as guest or observer, has not yet been determined. Most other members have approved the invitation to the Soviet president, although not as a full participant.
White House and congressional sources also said Bush is poised to ease tariff barriers to Soviet imports, opening the door to normal commerce for the first time since World War II.
Sometime in the next few weeks, the sources said Tuesday, the White House will announce its approval of most-favored-nation status for the Soviet Union. This status carries with it the lowest available tariffs on imports.
For example, MFN status would cut by 90 percent the current $1.32 per liter levy on a bottle of Soviet vodka.
Acknowledging the concerns of many Western leaders, Gorbachev said that as a precondition to receiving more financial aid, his country must stabilize its "democratic process" within a "new constitutional order."
In the first of the interruptions, a woman carrying yellow flowers walked up the aisle and shouted at Gorbachev. She continued screaming unintelligibly as security officers dragged her out.
Later in the speech, a man stood up and shouted about Afghanistan. He was led away peacefully.