Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze pressured NATO on Friday to hold talks on eventually eliminating short-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
But West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, joining other alliance leaders, said scrapping the weapons was out of the question as long as the Warsaw Pact had a superiority in conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons.He held firm, however, on West Germany's insistence that talks on reducing the weapons should be held promptly.
Bonn's insistence on short-range arms negotiations has split the alliance before a crucial NATO summit scheduled for the end of this month.
Shevardnadze arrived in Bonn one day after Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced a new arms reduction initiative during a meeting in Moscow with U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
Gorbachev reiterated his call for negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons and also announced a proposal to withdraw 500 Soviet battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe unilaterally.
Baker rejected the call for talks on short-range nuclear arsenals and said the other part of the initiative was a public relations move.
After arriving in Bonn, Shevardnadze referred to Baker's reaction to Gorbachev's initiative.
"I wouldn't exactly say that our idea has stirred up a lot of enthusiasm among the Americans," Shevardnadze said before beginning talks with West German leaders.
Shevardnadze repeated the Kremlin's call for the eventual elimination of all short-range nuclear missiles.
"This our ultimate goal," Shevardnadze said.
But Kohl, following the NATO line, told reporters after his meeting with Shevardnadze that total elimination was not an option as long as the Warsaw Pact has superior conventional and nuclear forces.
"My position has been very clear on this," Kohl said. "For me it is not realistic now to strive for a denuclearization of Europe."
But the chancellor said he believed the Soviet proposals could give impetus to movement in disarmament discussions.