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Secret Nixon tapes made public

President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev chatted warmly in the White House before a historic summit in June 1973, as revealed by secretly recorded tapes.

The long talk was captured on a hidden recording system that Mr Nixon used to tape 3,700 hours of conversations between February 1971 and July 1973.

The final chronological installment of those tapes - 340 hours - were made public by the National Archives and Records Administration, along with more than 140,000 pages of text documents. Hundreds of hours remain sealed for national security and privacy reasons.

Mr Nixon and Mr Brezhnev, who met one-on-one with only an interpreter present, talked for an hour on June 18, 1973, and chatted about personal topics, including their families. The conversation happened before the start of a historic seven-day summit that was part of Nixon's larger strategy of detente with the Soviet Union.

"We must recognise, the two of us, that ... we head the two most powerful nations and, while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together," Mr Nixon told Mr Brezhnev. "If we decide to work together, we can change the world. That's what - that's my attitude as we enter these talks."

The conversation is remarkable because of the camaraderie that is evident, said Luke Nichter of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen, who runs a website on Mr Nixon's secret recordings.

Both men discuss their children and Mr Brezhnev even talks about his grandson's attempts to pass college entrance exams. "These are Cold War arch-enemies who are talking like old friends," Mr Nichter said. "This is very unusual."

The newly released recordings also revealed that in the hours after Mr Nixon's first major national address about the Watergate scandal that would eventually drive him from office, two future presidents called him to express their private support: Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush.

Mr Nixon remains the only US president to resign. His second term was quickly overrun by the Watergate scandal, which began in 1972 when burglars tied to his re-election committee broke into the Democratic headquarters to get dirt on his political adversaries.

Faced with impeachment and a possible criminal indictment for obstructing the government's investigation, he resigned on August 9, 1974 - a little more than a year after the tapes end - and retreated to his native California, where he was pardoned a month later by his successor, Gerald Ford.


From Belfast Telegraph