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Visit of Mikhail Gorbachev to Great Britain

UNIDENTIFIED: Gorbachev, yeah. He's supposed to be bringing about 30 bodyguards, isn't he? Like, once he's had a few words to Maggie Thatcher, like he'll go back and think, oh well, well you know, a bit more Glasnost won't go amiss.

REPORTER: Are you aware that President Gorbachev is visiting Britain?

UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, indeed.

REPORTER: What would you like to see the meeting achieve?

UNIDENTIFIED: I would hope it would help, anyway, towards better relations.

UNIDENTIFIED: Less nuclear weapons, less developments in that area.

PETER THOMPSON: The people of Britain anticipating the visit by Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviet leader has just arrived in London from Cuba to begin an official visit during which he'll hold talks with the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and meet the Queen. Peter Cave, in London.

PETER CAVE: Mr Gorbachev's first official duty will be to go to bed and get some sleep after the flight from Cuba. But after that he's scheduled for punishing rounds of talks over two days on east-west arms reductions, trade, the Soviet role in Europe, human rights in the Soviet Union and in Northern Ireland. The BBC's Moscow correspondent, Jeremy Harris, was on the media plane which flew in to London from Cuba a few hours in advance of Mr Gorbachev. Journalists on that plane were briefed by the Soviet spokesman, Gennadiy Gerasimov.

JEREMY HARRIS: He was really seeking to play down excessive expectations about this visit by Mr Gorbachev to London. He said it was, in essence, a continuation of the Anglo-Soviet dialogue. He thought it was wrong to expect Mr Gorbachev to be continually pulling rabbits out of the hat, as he put it, when other political leaders were not expected to do such things. And he said perhaps it was time for Mrs Thatcher to come up with some initiative.

The main bone of contention is, as it always has been, the question of Britain's insistence on a policy of nuclear deterrents. But there are also other things that they would like more immediately. They certainly don't expect to change Mrs Thatcher's mind overnight on an issue like that. For example, trade would be a more immediate question. The Soviet Union would very much like more British firms to go in and help in one way or another with trying to re-tool and reshape the Soviet economy which, as Soviet officials are increasingly saying, is in rather poor condition.

PETER CAVE: If the sabre-rattling exercise by the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, prior to the visit is anything to go by, Mr Gorbachev will face some tough talking on arms reductions.

SIR GEOFFREY: The thing that still looms over the European continent is this huge bear of the Red Army - a tremendously well-armed, massive army, well stocked with tanks and artillery - and it is the reduction of that surplus that is the key to giving us a greater sense of security in the West.

PETER CAVE: Mrs Thatcher herself took a similar, if somewhat more diplomatic line, when she was interviewed earlier today by Moscow television.

MARGARET THATCHER: There is more hope for the peoples of the world than there has been for all the time which I have been in Downing Street. But you must - we use a colloquial expression - mustn't take your eye off the ball. And when sometimes you think that in one area the danger has been reduced, which I think it has, you still have to be prepared always to preserve your own security.

PETER THOMPSON: Margaret Thatcher.