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Soviets Confirm Choice of Top Arms Negotiator

January 14, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Yuli M. Vorontsov, a top diplomat with close ties to the Kremlin high command, is the new chief Soviet negotiator for the next round of arms control talks with the United States in Geneva, it was announced Tuesday.

Selection of the 57-year-old Vorontsov, who has spent 18 years in New York and Washington, was welcomed by U.S. Embassy officials.

Vorontsov replaces Viktor P. Karpov, 58, the Soviet Union's most experienced negotiator. It was Karpov who headed the Moscow delegation at the successful talks on the second strategic arms limitation treaty in 1978.

Tuesday's Kremlin announcement confirmed Western news media reports of Vorontsov's appointment last weekend.

Karpov, who heads a Foreign Ministry department on arms control and disarmament, ranks below Vorontsov and has been in the same relatively specialized field for almost all of his diplomatic career.

A senior Western diplomat suggested recently that Moscow would have to have a higher-level negotiator on the Soviet team if it wants to make any headway in the bogged-down Geneva talks.

Close to Dobrynin

Vorontsov is one of four first deputy foreign ministers. He has close ties to Anatoly F. Dobrynin, the former ambassador to Washington who now runs the International Department of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee.

Western diplomats said Vorontsov is regarded by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev as the kind of flexible and imaginative diplomat he prefers to the "Mr. Nyet" stereotype personified by former Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko.

For more than a decade, Vorontsov served under Dobrynin at the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Earlier he spent six years at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations. He was ambassador to India, a major post, and ambassador to France, where his tour was cut short last year upon his being promoted to first deputy foreign minister.

An affable, outgoing man fluent in English and French, Vorontsov reflects the new, Gorbachev style of public diplomacy.

His appointment--and the elevation of his opposite number at Geneva, Max M. Kampelman, to the rank of State Department counselor--is regarded as a favorable omen by Western observers.

Leader's Complaints

Gorbachev has complained publicly about the slow-moving Geneva negotiators, and he has not spared the Soviet representative. Vorontsov, Western diplomats suggested, may find it easier to strike a compromise than did his predecessor.

At the news briefing where the change of personnel was announced, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir F. Petrovksy said its purpose is to provide "new impetus" to the talks. The Soviet Union, he said, is prepared to support any constructive proposal on arms control in the new round, which is scheduled to open Thursday.

"We would like to think the raising of the level of the two delegations will make the Reykjavik agreements an effective reality," Petrovsky said, referring to the Soviet-American summit conference last October in Iceland.

American sources have said it would take at least two months of solid negotiations to hammer out an agreement based on the principles approved in Iceland.

Unless an agreement is reached by September, diplomatic sources said, it would be difficult to get it ratified early enough to avoid its getting sidetracked by election-year politics in 1988.

Karpov, although he has been replaced, does not appear to be in trouble with his superiors. It was announced that he will join the "collegium," or collective leadership, at the Foreign Ministry.

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