Moscow Denies Advisers Help Iraq : Military: Its citizens aren't serving Hussein, Kremlin says. It also denies sending warships into the gulf.


The Defense Ministry on Monday denied Western reports that Soviet advisers are aiding the Iraqi army and that the Soviet navy has sent warships into the Persian Gulf.

"The military advisers on the territory of Iraq are serving neither the president nor the armed services," the government newspaper Izvestia quoted Defense Ministry officials as saying.

The officials specifically rejected a report by The Times on Sunday that quoted U.S. officials as saying that up to 1,000 Soviet military advisers in Iraq appear to be providing assistance to Hussein's armed forces, thus creating behind-the-scenes friction between Moscow and Washington. The Kremlin has officially condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

"The declarations of the government are being rigorously fulfilled," the officials were quoted as saying.

The Defense Ministry did acknowledge that "a small group of Soviet military specialists," who work mainly on repairs, education and construction, have remained in Iraq to fulfill their contracts.

The Defense Ministry officials also denied reports by the news agencies Reuters and United Press International that the Soviet navy had moved ships into the Persian Gulf and was considering joint action with other fleets.

"At this time, there is not one Soviet warship in the Persian Gulf," Izvestia said. "The question of beefing up naval forces and using them jointly with Western countries has not been considered by the military command."

The wording of the denial left open the possibility that Soviet warships bound for the region might join a blockade later. Soviet officials have similarly left open the question of whether they will participate in a U.N.-sponsored multinational force in the Persian Gulf if one is created.

The Soviet Union, long an ally of Iraq and a major arms supplier, has joined the world condemnation of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait but is visibly wary of embroiling itself in military action in the Persian Gulf.

On Monday, the Communist Party daily Pravda carried a commentary on the possible consequences of the U.S. military buildup in the region, noting that "one shot on the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia border, bristling as it is with military hardware, and war will become inevitable."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri A. Gremitskikh repeated to reporters Monday that the Soviet Union "advocates a peaceful political settlement of the conflict."

He denied that the Soviet Union and the United States are exchanging information about the Iraqi army's equipment and bases.

"Our contacts with the U.S. side have not reached this level so far," he said.

A senior Western diplomat in Moscow had said earlier that Soviet and U.S. officials were "exchanging impressions" about events in the Persian Gulf, but that it was "a matter of interpretation" whether that amounted to sharing intelligence or not.

Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Belonogov discussed the conflict Monday with the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Jack F. Matlock, and the senior Chinese and British diplomatic officials.

As President Mikhail S. Gorbachev ordered over the weekend, a government group has been set up to arrange the evacuation of Soviet citizens from Iraq and Kuwait and has already begun work, Gremitskikh said.

The Soviet nationals to be repatriated number about 9,000, according to Soviet sources. The panel is working on evacuation routes, supply of food and transport and security issues, Gremitskikh said.

There have been no reports of Soviet deaths or injuries as the result of any harassment in Iraq or Kuwait. Iraqi officials have assured Moscow that Soviet nationals in Iraq are under "no direct threat," the news agency Tass said.

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