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Soviets Resume Arms Airlift to Afghanistan : Rebel Drive on Eastern City Spurs Aid to Kabul

From Times Wire Services

The Soviet Union said Thursday that it has resumed flying weapons to Afghanistan because of a guerrilla offensive around Jalalabad, the first major battle since Soviet troops completed their withdrawal Feb. 15.

Soviet Ambassador Yuli M. Vorontsov said the airlift resumed Wednesday, a month after the Soviet army left the Kabul government to fight the insurgents on its own.

He said the weapons flown to Afghanistan included medium-range Scud-B missiles, which are said to have been fired from Kabul at guerrilla positions around Jalalabad, 75 miles to the east and 40 miles from the Pakistan border.

Sources said at least 40 Ilyushin 76 transport planes have landed at the Kabul airport since Wednesday with military supplies and food.

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Guerrillas Report Gains

Muslim guerrillas said Thursday they have shot down two more aircraft in heavy fighting for Jalalabad, which they hope to capture as the seat of their interim government. The government said 470 insurgents were killed in the previous 24 hours.

The guerrillas also said Thursday that they have breached the airport perimeter in Jalalabad after a 10-day offensive.

Guerrilla officials said about 100 rebels cut through a barbed-wire fence at dusk Wednesday and seized a government post inside, killing six militiamen and capturing two tanks and two other military vehicles.

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“The moujahedeen (guerrillas) are now inside the airport,” a guerrilla spokesman said in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar. The report, received by radio from the Jalalabad area, could not be independently confirmed.

Says Pakistani Troops Sent

Vorontsov, who is also a deputy foreign minister, accused Pakistan of sending hundreds of its own soldiers along with the guerrillas in the intense battle for Jalalabad.

“We have discussed the situation with the Pakistanis and they know what our reaction will be if their involvement continues,” he said at a news conference at the Soviet Embassy. “We are not threatening the Pakistanis, but they must stop.”

Pakistan, along with the United States, supports the guerrillas but denies that any of its soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry called Vorontsov’s allegation “fictitious.”

Vorontsov called for immediate action by U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to set up all-party talks to end the fighting.

“We see an intensification of the war in Afghanistan,” he said. “We see a new aspect in the presence of Pakistani forces. We do not conceal from you that it looks like the beginning of a Pakistan-Afghanistan war.”

Denounces U.S. Role

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The ambassador, speaking fluent English, also denounced the role of the United States in arming and aiding the guerrillas.

“The latest statements from the new administration in Washington that it would go on arming the moujahedeen means they want to continue the war,” he said.

Vorontsov warned that the Afghan conflict could affect the progress of detente with the United States. “It is going to be a very serious matter if the situation in this part of the world inflames into a regional crisis,” he said, adding that the Soviet Union wants to discuss the whole problem with Washington.

He said the war could be stopped easily and quickly by a cease-fire, an end to “direct Pakistani military involvement which amounts to aggression” and the halting of weapons supplies to all sides.

“There is the necessity for the active work of the U.N. secretary general to help all forces in Afghanistan to sit down at the negotiating table with a view to working out a broad-based government,” he said.


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