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Soviet Diplomat Meets Exiled Afghan King

Associated Press

The Soviet Union held talks Saturday with the exiled king of Afghanistan about a new peace plan for the war-torn country, officials said.

Yuli M. Vorontsov, Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan and a first deputy foreign minister, said that the talks focused on a proposal for convening a council in Afghanistan of 50 to 60 politicians or prominent individuals to create a new government.

Afghan rebels have spoken recently about forming a broad-based government to succeed the Soviet-backed regime. But Vorontsov’s comments were the most detailed yet made publicly about the new proposal.

The Soviet official said his government had presented the plan to Pakistan-based Muslim rebels earlier this month and “we are still waiting for (their) word.”

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Vorontsov said that Saturday’s two-hour session with former King Mohammed Zahir Shah was “very useful.” Zahir Shah has lived in Italy since he was overthrown in 1973.

“We had a very long extensive discussion which covered lots of elements of the plan, of the future, (of) possibilities,” he told reporters at the residence of the Soviet ambassador to Rome. But he declined to say whether the king is receptive to returning as part of a transitional Afghan government.

While the 74-year-old former king still has a following in Afghanistan, some Muslim resistance groups remain strongly opposed to him.

The Soviets are anxious to see a stable government in place that will end the Afghan war and not persecute Afghan communists.

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