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Shultz Calls for End to Soviets' Afghan Arms Aid

February 21, 1988|ROBERT C. TOTH | Times Staff Writer

HELSINKI, Finland — On the eve of a Moscow visit likely to be dominated by regional issues, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Saturday that the Kremlin must stop providing military aid to Afghanistan's government when the United States halts its arms shipments to Afghan rebels.

He hinted however, that the United States sympathized with, but would not insist upon, Pakistan's demand for creation of an interim government in Kabul before accepting the Geneva accords that would begin a Soviet withdrawal.

Shultz also told a press conference here, during an overnight stop before beginning his three-day visit to Moscow today, that the Kremlin's desire to participate in the Mideast peace process is hobbled by its treatment of Soviet Jews as well as its lack of diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Soviets are understood to suspect that the new U.S. peace initiative in the Mideast is designed to relieve Israel of the international condemnation over Palestinian rioting and at the same time to push Moscow out of the process by shunting aside an earlier plan for an international conference on the Mideast.

Support for Embargo

On the Iran-Iraq War, a third regional conflict issue scheduled for discussion with Soviet leaders, Shultz welcomed the circulation of a draft resolution among the members of the U.N. Security Council that would impose an arms embargo on Iran for refusing to accept the cease-fire in the Persian Gulf area that was called for in an early resolution.

The five permanent members of the Council, including the Soviet Union, have agreed to permit the draft to be discussed by the council's rotating members. This is viewed as a step forward, but it is no assurance that the Soviets will eventually vote for the resolution itself, U.S. officials said later.

Shultz said he hopes the lagging U.S.-Soviet strategic arms talks will be "energized" by his meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze. But "the heart of the problem" Shultz said, is devising a verification system for the new accord that would cut superpower nuclear arsenals in half.

This is "pick and shovel work" he said, with little prospect of a breakthrough at this time.

But, as one senior U.S. official said, both sides want to maintain the momentum of previous Shultz-Shevardnadze meetings in which significant decisions were made on arms issues. Without new movement, prospects for a strategic arms agreement at a scheduled Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Moscow in May or June will be measurably lessened.

Most Visible Issue

Nonetheless, the most visible issue in Moscow this week will be Afghanistan, with the United States seeking details of the Soviets' withdrawal plan, which Gorbachev announced earlier this month.

He proposed pulling out all Soviet troops within 10 months, starting May 15, if the five parts of a Geneva accord are signed March 15. These parts include: Noninterference from abroad, return of the 3 million Afghan refugees from Pakistan, U.S.-Soviet guarantees of the settlement, withdrawal conditions and timetable, and monitoring of the accords by U.N. observers.

After Gorbachev's announcement, however, Pakistan and the Afghan rebels demanded that a new government be set up in Kabul to replace the present Soviet-backed regime. This was a new condition suddenly put forward, and Moscow accused the Pakistanis of trying to sabotage the peace process.

Rate of Withdrawal

The withdrawal plan "is the key we've been looking for" Shultz said. But the United States wants to pin down the rate of the pullout--50% out in three months has been a suggested rate--as well as other important details. On the key issue of a cutoff of U.S. aid to the rebels, which has not been spelled out precisely in the past, Shultz said, "It is only sensible for us to cease supplying military materials to the freedom fighters if the Soviets similarly cease similar supplies to the government forces. It has to be symmetry there."

Until now, the United States only promised to cut off aid to the rebels when it became convinced that the Soviet withdrawal was "irreversible."

In addition, the question of continued Soviet support for the Afghan army, which Shultz now appears to rule out, had not been specifically addressed before. Not only should Soviet military aid stop, Shultz said, but, "We assume they (the Soviet army) will be taking their weapons with them."

As for the new demands for an interim government, Shultz said it was "easy to understand" Pakistan's concern. Without a new regime in Kabul to enhance stability and instill trust, the Afghan refugees could refuse to leave their camps in Pakistan.

These "reasons are not that different from the reasons the Soviets gave earlier on when they were saying they wanted to see an interim government" in Kabul, Shultz said.

Pakistan's Embrace

However, Moscow was persuaded by U.N. mediator Diego Cordovez and the United States to withdraw this condition, only to see Pakistan now embrace it.

But Shultz, when asked if the United States would "insist" on this condition now, replied only that an interim government would be "desirable." He suggested that an interim regime might be hammered out by the Afghans themselves because the rebels now "seem to be ready to discuss it."

On the Mideast, Shultz told reporters on his aircraft en route here that the concept of an international peace conference has not developed any "content," or substance, since it was proposed several years ago.

The Soviets should recognize, he said, that they have no diplomatic relations with Israel but do have "rather heavy and unwarranted restrictions on emigration and the practice of religion, including the Jewish religion. So they have some work to do that will make their presence at an international conference more acceptable from our standpoint and Israel's standpoint," he added.

This appeared to be the first time Soviet human rights behavior has been tied so directly to the Mideast peace process.

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