Completion of Accord Foreseen at U.S.-Soviet Summit : Afghan Settlement May Be Near, Hammer Says

October 15, 1987|DAN FISHER | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Los Angeles industrialist Armand Hammer, in the middle of what he describes as a one-man shuttle mission to end the war in Afghanistan, said here Wednesday that he thinks a settlement based on bringing back the Afghan king can be completed at the Soviet-American summit likely to be held later this year.

Hammer said that Afghanistan's president, who uses the single name of Najibullah, told him during a meeting Tuesday in Kabul that he is willing to share power with the king and with guerrilla groups who have been fighting a series of Soviet-backed Marxist Afghan governments since 1978.

Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan amid worsening turmoil there in December, 1979, installing Babrak Karmal as the country's strongman. But what was reportedly envisioned as a quick military operation has dragged on for nearly eight years, tying down about 115,000 Soviet troops. Looking for a way out, the Soviets apparently arranged Karmal's replacement with Najibullah in May, 1986.

"He cannot be just a symbol," Hammer quoted Najibullah as saying about King Mohammed Zahir Shah, 73, who was ousted in a 1973 coup and now lives in Rome. "He has to play an active role."

Najibullah's own role in any power-sharing arrangement "has to be worked out," Hammer said. But he added that the Afghan leader is ready to give up more than half the Cabinet posts in his government and to let the former king's son-in-law become prime minister.

Najibullah has previously refused to part with the key ministries controlling the army and secret police in any coalition, but Hammer, who is chairman of Occidental Petroleum, quoted him Wednesday as saying, "We'll negotiate all those posts."

Party for Ida Nudel

Hammer spoke to reporters at a southwest Moscow restaurant where he attended a going-away party for longtime Soviet Jewish activist Ida Nudel. Nudel, who was given permission to emigrate earlier this month after a 16-year wait, is to fly from Moscow to Israel today aboard Hammer's private jet.

Hammer said he will go from Israel to Pakistan, where he has a weekend appointment with Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq.

"I believe Zia is now the key to getting the Russians out of Afghanistan and restoring peace to that country," Hammer said. He said he will ask the Pakistani leader to use his influence with leaders of the Afghan resistance to support his plan for the king's return.

There are an estimated 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, placing a heavy burden on the country.

In the past, proposals to put the king back on the throne have met opposition from some of the leaders of seven major resistance groups battling the Soviet-backed Kabul regime. And last January, all the leaders of the guerrillas, or moujahedeen , refused to cooperate with a cease-fire proposed by Najibullah and to join in his "national reconciliation" plan.

A senior Western diplomat said here recently that he sees no evidence that the Soviet Union is ready to withdraw its troops except on its own terms.

Hammer said he has been trying to broker an Afghan settlement for nearly a year and that he undertook his latest trip to Kabul at the suggestion of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev indicated in an interview last May with the Italian Communist newspaper L'Unita that he would accept Zahir Shah as part of a coalition government after a negotiated withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Hammer said he had also met several times with the former Afghan king, who agrees in principle on a return to his country.

"My plan, my hope is that we'll get the king back," said Hammer.

"For 40 years we had Afghan peace. Afghanistan had good relations with all its neighbors, including the Soviet Union. It was only when (Zahir Shah) was overthrown in 1973 that all the trouble started."

Hammer, 89, described the former king as "a young 73" and "a great Afghan patriot." Zahir Shah was ousted by his brother-in-law, Mohammed Daoud, a former prime minister, who promptly proclaimed a republic. Daoud was killed in the 1978 coup that brought the Marxist Nur Mohammed Taraki to power.

His attempt to create a Marxist state spurred armed resistance from conservative Muslim opposition groups, and Taraki was succeeded by Hafizullah Amin in 1979. Taraki died or was killed that fall, and Amin died during the Soviet invasion later the same year.

"The story I get is that Amin had sold out, supposedly to forces who wanted to set up an anti-Soviet government in Afghanistan," Hammer said, echoing an explanation frequently given by the Soviets for their invasion.

The Occidental executive stressed that he is acting "in a purely private capacity" but said he is "in touch with the U.S. government. I never make a single move without clearing it with the State Department."

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