US-SOVIET RELATIONS. US curtails missionary work at UN

The United States State Department last week defended its order to the Soviet Union to reduce the number of diplomats working at its missions to the United Nations and said the action ``has nothing to do with a summit meeting.'' The Reagan administration, citing a threat to US security posed by Soviet espionage, told Moscow on March 7 that the Soviet UN missions would have to be reduced from the current level of 275 personnel to 170 over two years.

The Soviet government formally protested March 11, saying the action could harm superpower relations. It warned Washington that ``such actions strengthen mistrust and by no means create a favourable background for the summit.''

The Soviet statement rejected as ``utterly far-fetched and unfounded'' the US allegations that Soviet staff in New York had engaged in activities un-related to their UN work.

The statement warned that the Kremlin would not ignore the ``illegal'' action and would be forced to draw ``the appropriate conclusions''.

President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed at Geneva last November to have a second summit in the US sometime this year.

US State Department spokesman Charles Redman defended the US order on the Soviet missions. ``There is no reason why this step should impair bilateral relations,'' he told reporters. ``This action has nothing to do with a summit meeting, which we continue to believe to be in the best interest of both sides.

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