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Iraqi Leader in Moscow, May Be Seeking Additional Soviet Weapons

December 17, 1985|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, making his first visit to Moscow since the Iran-Iraq war began nearly six years ago, met Monday with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev amid speculation that he was seeking an increase in Soviet arms shipments.

The presence of Soviet Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov at the Kremlin talks with Hussein spurred speculation about the reason for the previously unannounced visit. The Iraqis may need additional armaments to end their military stalemate with Iran.

In a speech at a banquet in his honor, Hussein said that Iraq wants to settle its war with Iran by peaceful means so the two states can live as good neighbors.

Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko called the war between Iraq and Iran senseless and renewed the Kremlin's appeal for a negotiated settlement.

Iraq's Major Arms Supplier

Despite its declared neutrality, the Soviet Union has been Iraq's major arms supplier. Some Soviet weapons and equipment also have been sent to Iran by way of Syria, a Kremlin ally but an adversary of Iraq.

In his speech, Gromyko referred to Iran's call for the ouster of Hussein as the only way to end the war and said it was an unreasonable demand.

The Soviet position, Gromyko said, is that "the contentious issues between Iraq and Iran (should) . . . be settled at the negotiating table rather than on the battlefield."

The official news agency Tass said that Hussein's talks with Gorbachev were conducted in a frank, businesslike and friendly atmosphere. In the Kremlin's diplomatic code, that implies there was a substantial amount of disagreement.

Tass also said Gorbachev and Hussein discussed the situation in the Mideast and the "urgent need" to overcome splits in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The two leaders blamed Israel and the United States for creating an "explosive situation" in the Midast and said that only an international conference attended by the PLO can resolve the conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

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