Remarks of the President and Prime Minister Mario Soares of Portugal Following Their Meetings

March 14, 1984

The President. It has again been an honor and a pleasure to welcome Mario Soares to the White House. He came here a year ago as Vice President of the Socialist International and now returns as Prime Minister of Portugal.

He's truly an international personality, a valiant supporter of Western values and ideals, and a man of great personal courage. As Prime Minister of Portugal, he represents a close and valued ally, one of the founding members of the North Atlantic alliance. We regularly seek his counsel, and again today we've had valuable and extensive discussions.

Prime Minister Soares and I examined economic matters of importance to both our peoples. I assured the Prime Minister that the United States will continue to do all that is feasible to assist Portugal in meeting its difficult economic challenges.

In another vital area of cooperation, we discussed the bilateral mutual security arrangements renewed last December. Under these arrangements, Portugal is playing a significant role in protecting the freedom of the Western democracies and maintaining world peace. The responsibilities he demonstrates reflects well on the character of Portugal's people and her leaders. And today I reaffirm to Prime Minister Soares that the United States stands ready to help modernize the Portuguese Armed Forces.

We applaud Prime Minister Soares' and Portugal's commitment to a strong and effective NATO alliance, and we wish them well as they move to join the European Communities.

The Prime Minister and I exchanged views on the present situation and outlook in the Middle East and Central America -- regions in which he has a long and deep interest and concern. And certainly we benefited from his insights. We had an especially useful discussion of the outlook for peaceful settlements of the conflicts in southern Africa. Portugal's historic interests in Africa and her cultural, economic, and political ties of today add much weight to Prime Minister Soares' judgments in this area. We agreed that regular consultations between our two governments on African questions are useful for us both, and we will continue this practice.

I want to thank Mario Soares for his visit and our forthright exchange of ideas. He is a special friend, as well as an important leader, and I wish him Godspeed and look forward to our meeting again.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, I would like, at the outset, to express my appreciation to the President of the United States for his invitation to make this official visit to Washington, and to say how pleased I am to have been afforded this opportunity to renew now, as head of the Portuguese Government, the contacts and friendly relationships which I established in the past with President Reagan and the American administration.

During this period, we have learned to respect your leadership qualities and the straightforward way in which you have handled delicate situations, while always keeping in mind the fundamental values of democracy. Contacts between the leaders of our countries, which should be considered normal between two NATO allies which have maintained close relations over a long period, now assume special importance in view of the readiness of both parties to imbue our relationship with a new dynamic following the important impetus to our cooperation in the defense area provided by the renewal of the Lajes Base agreement.

The sound relations existing between the United States and Portugal are not the result of occasional identical positions or passing convergence of interests. They are, rather, the result of a sincere and profound sharing of values and ideals, such as freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights, principles in which we believe and which we practice. The Luso-American community residing in this country, which here bears witness to the affection in which the Portuguese hold the American people, greatly contributes to the friendship which unites us.

Among the issues which we have had the opportunity to address, I wish to emphasize those related to southern Africa, a region of the world where important steps on the road to peace are now being taken. Portugal, which maintains centuries-old ties of friendship with the people in this region, namely with those of Mozambique and Angola, has devoted particular attention to the problems of this area, following the process of decolonization carried out in 1974, and has spared no effort to contribute to the creation of a climate of dialog and peaceful solutions to the problems of the region.

We also considered the situation in Central and South America. I believe the initiatives of the Contadora group, as well as all those directed towards advancing the democratic process and establishing regimes guaranteeing true freedom in the countries of the region, are deserving of our support. The cultural ties existing betwen the Iberian countries and Latin America, stemming from a longstanding commonality of history and language, lead Portugal to take profound interest in the evolution of the situation in the countries of this region and to maintain close contacts with those forces seeking to uphold the principles of liberty in that part of the world.

It was very gratifying for me to note that the United States and Portugal share very similar points of view regarding East-West relations and the need to strengthen the Atlantic alliance in order to resist expansionist threats and contribute to peace.

Reporter. Mr. President, is the Meese nomination now in trouble, sir?

The President. Not as far as I'm concerned.

Q. Are you upset about the loan story?

The President. No.

Q. Should he withdraw his name, Mr. President? Should he take his name out?

The President. No.

Q. What about this latest loan? Did he forget?

The President. I'm not answering.

Q. Why didn't he declare the money? Why did he hide it?

The President. I don't think he hid it, and I think he will make it clear when he testifies.

Q. So, you're not going to withdraw him?

The President. No.

Q. Do you think he'll be confirmed, sir?

The President. Yes.

Note: The President spoke at 1:13 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. The Prime Minister spoke in Portuguese, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister, together with U.S. and Portuguese officials, held meetings in the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. They then held a working luncheon in the State Dining Room.