SECRETARY of State James Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in the nation's fourth-largest city Sunday to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis and the dates of a future superpower summit. The meeting is the third between Mr. Shevardnadze and Mr. Baker in the last two years. Tass, the official Soviet news agency, said the talks were scheduled for Houston for the ``very good reasons'' of conducting such deliberations ``far from the madding crowds.''
On Wednesday, Shevardnadze will meet with President Bush in Washington. The two are expected to work out the final details of a treaty that proposes cutting in half long-range ballistic missile arsenals. Such an accord would be the keynote of the Moscow summit between President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
But high-level diplomacy to get Iraq to leave Kuwait, including a possible Baker trip to Baghdad in January, has made the proposed January date for the next Gorbachev-Bush meeting in Moscow unlikely.
Iraq told the United States Saturday it wants Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz to travel to Washington to meet Bush Dec. 17, and Baker to meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad Jan. 12 - three days before a United Nations-imposed Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait or face the possibility of removal by force.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the administration rejected the Jan. 12 date, and that it wants Baker and Saddam to meet in late December or early January.