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Norwegian Calls Soviet Arms Bid 'a Good Deal'

May 14, 1987|ROBERT C. TOTH | Times Staff Writer

STAVANGER, Norway — As NATO defense ministers gathered here Wednesday to examine nuclear issues, Norwegian Defense Minister Johan Holst called for speedy acceptance of the Soviet offer to eliminate short-range as well as medium-range missiles from Europe.

Holst also urged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to "put off talk" about placing new nuclear weapons in Europe to compensate for missiles that would be withdrawn. He said he fears that the Soviets will demand guarantees against circumvention of the proposed agreement that could delay completing the treaty.

"To me, this is a good deal," Holst told a group of American reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, and he promised to argue his views strongly at the Nuclear Planning Group meeting that is scheduled to open here today.

Growing Pressure

Holst, a recognized strategic analyst, appears to be the first NATO defense chief to publicly express impatience at the failure of NATO, and particularly that of West Germany, to reach a consensus on whether the United States should accept last month's Soviet offer. It calls for eliminating the so-called Euromissiles of short range (300 to 1,000 miles) as well as the medium-range missiles (up to 3,000 miles).

His words, which some NATO officials believe also reflect the views of other smaller countries in the alliance, reflect growing pressure on the Bonn government to resolve its differences.

Agreement to eliminate Euro-missiles, Holst said, "would change the whole character of East-West relations in Europe" and significantly affect progress in other areas of arms control.

Illegal Export

On another defense matter, Holst indicated that Norway is deeply embarrassed by the illegal export of computer technology to the Soviet Union by a government-owned arms manufacturing conglomerate.

A senior U.S. official said the result of the illegal transfer has been to make Soviet submarines at least 10 times quieter and less detectable.

The computer hardware and software was provided to the Japanese company Toshiba, which sold it together with Japanese milling machines to a Leningrad firm in the 1983-84 period. The combination has facilitated the manufacture of submarine propellers that are much quieter than previous propellers, the U.S. official said.

"We share the United States' concern about the seriousness of the matter," Holst said.

The Norwegian police, working on the case since February, have arrested one person for providing false information on an export license application and are investigating three other people, he said.

Probe in Japan

A similar investigation is under way in Japan, according to American officials.

The branch of the Norwegian firm, Kongsberg, that dealt with exports to Eastern Europe has been dissolved, Holst said. But the firm itself, which will survive, has recently bid on a contract to supply the United States with anti-submarine missiles.

Weinberger said he is satisfied that Oslo and Tokyo are both pursuing the case "very vigorously." But when he was asked about its impact on the Norwegian missile bid, he suggested that the Kongsberg firm may no longer be considered a reliable bidder.

"Obviously," he said, "our contracts and the relations we want to have are with reliable people who share our views about the importance of not aiding the Soviets in ways that can give them more of a military advantage. That is just common sense."

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