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U.S. Will Back Afghan Peace Accord but Soviets Must Pull Out First, Reagan Says

December 29, 1985|DOYLE McMANUS and MICHAEL WINES | Times Staff Writers

President Reagan said Saturday that the United States remains ready to guarantee a compromise peace settlement in Afghanistan, but he warned that no progress is possible until the Soviet Union sets a timetable for withdrawing its troops from the country.

Reagan, in his regular weekly radio address, offered the Soviets an implied promise that the United States would end its support to the Afghan rebels if a settlement were reached but warned that the aid will continue as long as Soviet troops remain in place.

"Such support is a compelling moral responsibility of all free people," the President said, broadcasting from his suite in the Century Plaza Hotel.

6th Anniversary Noted

Friday was the sixth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, launched to prop up a pro-Moscow Marxist regime under attack by Muslim rebels. At least 115,000 Soviet troops are still in the country, fighting rebels who have received millions of dollars in aid from the United States, China and Saudi Arabia.

Reagan noted that a new round of U.N.-sponsored negotiations on Afghanistan ended Dec. 19 "with no significant change."

"If the Soviets want progress, they must simply put forward a timetable for the withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan and for the restoration of the rights of the Afghan people," he said. "The United States will do everything in its power to make this the course which the Soviets choose. Indeed, we're prepared to serve as a guarantor of a comprehensive Afghan settlement so long as it includes the complete withdrawal of foreign forces within a fixed timetable; insures genuine independence, not de facto Soviet control over the Afghan people and their government, and allows the millions of Afghan refugees to return to their homeland in safety."

His statement repeated a proposal made public by Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead on Dec. 13, offering to guarantee that the United States would support a compromise settlement to the war. Such a guarantee, officials say, would imply an end to U.S. aid for the rebels.

Strong Warning Issued

But Reagan's statement coupled the offer with a strong warning to Moscow that there will be no reduction in support for the rebels until a timetable for Soviet withdrawal is fixed.

His comments appeared to reflect U.S. officials' suspicion that recent signals from Soviet officials that they are ready to discuss withdrawal are merely an attempt at improving Moscow's image.

"The Soviets . . . know that, in a sense, the battle for Afghanistan has shifted from the mountains of Afghanistan itself to the wider field of world opinion," Reagan said. "They're waiting for world attention to slip, for our outrage to wane. Then they believe the support which the Free World has been providing to the freedom fighters will dwindle.

"We must not allow that to happen," he said.

Reagan said the invasion has resulted in "six years of utter hell for the Afghan people," noting that Soviet troops have used poison gas and anti-personnel bombs in civilian areas.

Reagan repeated those charges to demonstrate that the occupation "is a matter of serious concern to us," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said.

Soviets Must Act

"From time to time, beginning in Geneva, we have seen in the Soviet statements some hope of progress on Afghanistan," Speakes said, referring to Reagan's meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in November. "The President is anxiously awaiting some demonstration of that willingness to make progress."

On Saturday morning, Reagan also videotaped a five-minute greeting to the Soviet people that will be broadcast on Soviet television on New Year's Day. Gorbachev was to have taped a similar greeting this weekend for broadcast to the American public.

The text of Reagan's greeting was not released. Speakes said it "continues the spirit of Geneva" and "points out areas of agreement to work in and for progress."

Later in the day, the President, vacationing in Southern California, placed a telephone call to singer Lou Rawls, who was videotaping a fund-raising telethon in Los Angeles for the United Negro College Fund. The telethon was broadcast nationally via cable television Saturday night.

In other matters, Speakes said Saturday that the President will make his final decisions on the federal budget "shortly after he returns" to Washington on Friday.

Speakes said the fiscal 1987 budget preparations had gone "extremely well" despite the sharp spending cuts that Congress mandated when it enacted the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction amendment earlier this month. Final spending plans remain undetermined for only a couple of Cabinet-level agencies.

"The budget is all but locked up," Speakes said.

Doyle McManus reported from Washington and Michael Wines from Los Angeles.

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