Afghan pullout must be total, Western leaders say
Venice — President Carter and other Western leaders meeting here for an economic summit Sunday reacted with a joint declaration to the Soviet announcement of the withdrawal of some troops from Afghanistan.
The seven major industrialized democracies said the limited troop withdrawal from Afghanistan announced by the Soviet Union must continue until all Soviet troops were out of the country. A statement ready by Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga said this was the only way to solve the Afghan crisis.
The statement that a complete pullout was necessary was also issued in the names of French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada, and Japanese Foreign Minister Saburo Okita.
The joint statement was a signal to the Kremlin that its announced step could be acceptable if it was the first stage of a complete and permanent withdrawal of some 80,000 troops that moved into Afghanistan last November.
The Soviet announcement came in a 36-word report by the official news agency Tass and was also sent in a message passed from Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to President Giscard d'Estaing, who last month became the first Western leader since the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to confer with the Soviet premier.
Neither announcement said how many Soviet soldiers were being withdrawn.
President Carter's national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said it was too early to determine whether the Moscow announcement was a tactical redeployment of troops, a simple troop rotation, or a more significant signal about the Soviet Union's future course in Afghanistan.
Privately, officials in Washington said the Soviet offer of a partial withdrawal appeared to be a ploy to divert attention during the Venice meeting of the world's leading industrialized democracies.
The officials said that according to reports reaching Washington over the past few days, the Soviet Union has been replenishing its troops in Afghanistan.
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