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Gorbachev Would Start Afghan Pullout May 15 : If End to Civil War Is Negotiated, 115,000 Troops Could Be Out by March Next Year, He Declares

February 09, 1988|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

"The date is set based on the assumption that agreements on the settlement would be signed no later than March 15, 1988," Gorbachev added, "and that, accordingly, they would all enter into force simultaneously two months after that. If the agreements are signed before March 15, the withdrawal of troops will, accordingly, begin earlier.

"Recently, another question has been raised, whether the phasing of Soviet troop withdrawal could be arranged in such a way as to withdraw, during the first phase, a relatively greater portion of the Soviet contingent," he said. "Well, that too can be done. The Afghan leadership and we agree to it."

A settlement might still be blocked by "some states or political figures," Gorbachev said, without elaborating, but he said any government or person seeking to block a settlement would have to take the blame.

"We believe," he said, "that common sense will prevail."

As for the possibility of a blood bath between opposing Afghan forces following a Soviet withdrawal, Gorbachev said it would be possible to consider suggestions for a U.N. peacekeeping force.

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