Soviets Top U.N. List on Aid to Afghans
A Soviet pledge of $600 million in aid topped the list of offers Wednesday as the United Nations sought a total of $1.1 billion for relief and reconstruction of war-ravaged Afghanistan.
It was an unprecedented move by Moscow, which has never before joined in an international project of this kind, limiting its aid in the past to bilateral agreements largely with Marxist nations.
The United States did not pledge a specific amount, although Ambassador Herbert Okun noted that Washington had given $142 million in multilateral and bilateral aid to Afghanistan in fiscal 1988, which ended Oct. 1.
“But I can assure the Afghan people,” Okun said, “that my government and people will continue their large and sustained humanitarian aid for Afghans and for the United Nations program.”
Soviet Ambassador Alexander M. Belonogov said Moscow would give goods and services valued at “the large sum of 400 million rubles,” the equivalent of $600 million at the official rate of exchange.
Food, Medical Supplies
In his statement, Belonogov said the Soviet contribution will include “foodstuffs, clothes, footwear, linen, medical supplies,” delivered in Afghanistan. He also pledged construction equipment and materials, to be delivered to U.N. project sites; unspecified “city-to-city” and “region-to-region” relief goods, and up to $75 million in transportation costs for international aid shipped through the Soviet Union.
Soviet officials said Belonogov will disclose details of Moscow’s commitment at a news conference today.
Other major donations for the relief effort, called Operation Salaam, include:
--$60 million from Japan. Ambassador Makoto Taniguchi said that the Japanese government, together with medical transportation and water experts, also is weighing other gifts.
Grain From Europe
--50,000 tons of grain, worth $10 million, from the 12-nation European Communities, which allocated $24 million in aid to Afghanistan for fiscal 1988. Common Market representatives said the communities will assume their part in financing specific projects during fiscal 1989. --$27 million from West Germany for fiscal 1989, along with an immediate $5 million for mine clearing, an item that U.N. officials rated as a top priority.
China, which together with the United States was a major supplier of arms to the Afghan guerrillas in their eight-year battle against occupying Soviet troops, made no pledge for the postwar rehabilitation program.
Third World nations were largely absent from the conference where pledges were made, with the exception of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors, Pakistan and Iran, where most of the world’s 3 million to 4 million Afghan refugees are sheltered.
In a related development, Afghan Premier Mohammed Hassan Sharq said Wednesday that the government prefers a settlement with guerrilla field commanders to a deal with leaders who direct the Muslim insurgency from neighboring Pakistan, the Associated Press reported.
In a 90-minute meeting in Kabul with five Western journalists, he made no new offers that might persuade the U.S.-supported guerrillas to stop fighting.
“If we are not able to have ways of negotiating with all of them (the insurgents), we will have negotiations with some of them. Those who are sharing the miseries of the people of Afghanistan will come first,” Sharq said.
He also expressed willingness to talk with Afghan leaders inside and outside the country, including deposed King Mohammed Zahir Shah. The return of Zahir Shah, who lives in Italy, as a constitutional monarch is periodically proposed as means of ending the current impasse.