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Dukakis Calls For Stronger Conventional Forces

February 15, 1988

DERRY, N.H. (AP) _ Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis called Sunday for a 50 percent reduction in strategic weapons and a ban on nuclear warhead testing and weapons in space, coupled with a strengthening of the nation’s conventional forces.

″If the next president is required to use force, it will almost certainly be conventional forces and not nuclear,″ he said.

The Democratic presidential hopeful, in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech, said ″the next president isn’t going to be giving blank checks to the Pentagon or to anybody else. If he did, the checks would bounce.″

″But we can have the forces we need at a price we can afford if we are willing to make some tough choices and if we invest our limited resources wisely,″ he said.

Dukakis said he would seek ″to get a dollar’s worth of security for every dollar we spend.″

In the speech, the Massachusetts governor said he would not hesitate to use military force to defend vital interests.

″There is no room in this hemisphere for military bases from which the Soviet Union or any other power for that matter might project military force against ourselves, our allies or our friends,″ Dukakis said. ″And if Nicaragua or any other government in Central or South America seeks to overthrow or subvert its neighbors, we have the right and the responsibility to stop them.″

But Dukakis repeated his opposition to aid to Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. And he pledged to abide by the War Powers Act, which places limits on presidential use of military force.

He also said he would observe the treaty of the Organization of American States and the rulings of the World Court. President Reagan has violated all three, Dukakis said.

Dukakis accused the Reagan administration of bumbling and incompetence in addition to violation of international law.

″There’s nothing strong about wandering around the Persian Gulf without a minesweeper,″ Dukakis said, a reference to the Navy’s failure to send a minesweeping vessel to that region when Reagan first ordered escorts of oil tankers.

″There’s nothing strong about selling arms to terrorists,″ Dukakis said. He said that as president he would never make concessions to terrorists although he said he would talk to them, if the situation warranted.

And Dukakis said that in his administration, ″Authority in the executive branch will come, not from an admiral or a lieutenant colonel, but from the commander in chief.″

Dukakis avoided comment on a new commercial by rival Paul Simon, which cites a recent editorial in the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune. The editorial says if elected, the governor would lead a bureaucracy, not the people.

Questioned outside the Derry, N.H., Knights of Columbus Hall, Dukakis said he had not seen the advertisement.

″I’m not watching much television,″ he said.