Soviets to Pull 6,000 Troops From Afghanistan in Peace Bid : Gorbachev Links Total Pullout to Rebel Surrender

July 28, 1986|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced today that six Soviet army regiments--about 6,000 of its estimated 115,000 troops in Afghanistan--will be withdrawn this year as a gesture aimed at speeding up Afghan peace talks.

Gorbachev said the six regiments will return to their permanent bases in the Soviet Union. He suggested that the troops would not be replaced, but did not say so specifically.

"By taking this step, the U.S.S.R. is striving to speed up political settlement and give it another impetus," he said in a speech televised from the Soviet Pacific port of Vladivostok.

Rebel Surrender Required

Gorbachev said a schedule for full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been worked out with the Marxist government in Kabul, but would not be put into effect until a "political settlement" was reached.

Such a settlement, he repeated, must include a guarantee that the Muslim rebels fighting in Afghanistan with U.S. and Pakistani backing will lay down their arms.

"If the intervention against Afghanistan continues, the Soviet Union will stand up for its neighbor," Gorbachev warned.

In a speech to a meeting of party officials held during his visit to the Soviet Far East, Gorbachev also said he is studying President Reagan's letter on arms control and will decide the Kremlin's next step based in part on how much Reagan compromises on his Star Wars program.

2nd Summit Favored

Gorbachev also said he favors a second summit with Reagan, but insisted such a meeting was only part of a comprehensive agreement reached in Geneva.

At their first summit in Geneva last Nov. 19-21, the two men agreed to meet in the United States this year and in the Soviet Union in 1987. The Soviets have delayed setting a date for the summit.

"As far as a new Soviet-U.S. summit meeting is concerned, I can repeat we favor such a meeting," Gorbachev said.

"But we resolutely oppose the interpretation of the accords reached at the previous meeting in Geneva as reduced to the promise to have more meetings."

Reagan's letter on arms control responded to a June letter from Gorbachev and was delivered in Moscow on Saturday by U.S. Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman.

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