With Sadat out of picture, Moscow woos moderate and radical Arabs

In the wake of the assassination of Anwar Sadat, senior Arab officials, including Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, are expected in Moscow for talks with Soviet officials.

Besides Mr. Arafat, Arab diplomats here report, the president of North Yemen and a senior Kuwaiti delegation are also to visit the Soviet Union.

The scheduled talks are seen as reflecting a Kremlin desire to consolidate or improve relations with both hard-line and moderate Arabs after Sadat's murder, to counter US Mideast strategy.

Diplomats say Moscow would also welcome even a gradual warming of relations with Saudi Arabia.

Talks with moderate Kuwait and North Yemen could further this aim, particularly if the US Senate vetoes the sale of AWACS surveillance aircraft to the Saudis.

A PLO source said, meanwhile, that Mr. Arafat ''will be here soon.''

The guerrilla chief had been scheduled to visit Moscow earlier this year, but the trip was put off without explanation. Diplomats here speculate that both the Soviets and Mr. Arafat probably decided to schedule the talks now in light of the Sadat assassination. Moscow also may want to demonstrate its ties with Mr. Arafat after his China visit.

Jordan's King Hussein and the Kuwaiti foreign minister visited Moscow earlier this year. Diplomats here expect a renewed Soviet effort to improve ties with the moderate Arab world in light of ES congressional opposition to the Saudi plane deal and amid general uncertainty in the post-Sadat Mideast.

The ruler of Kuwait said recently he would urge fellow moderate Arab oil states to establish diplomatic relations with Moscow - a propaganda boost for the Kremlin even if, as is likely, no one rushes to take up the suggestion. Kuwait is the only such country with an embassy here. North Yemen has relations with Moscow, but no oil to speak of; not much military power either, despite its motley assortment of Western and Soviet materiel.

Still, talks with North Yemen's President could be quite important for the Kremlin. North Yemen is squeezed between the conservative Saudis and the pro-Soviet regime in South Yemen, which has periodically made unsuccessful feints at ''reuniting'' with the northerners.

South Yemen is something of a diplomatic liability for the Soviets. Even the Kuwaitis, ties with Moscow notwithstanding, have privately expressed concern to the Soviets over their militantly Marxist neighbor.

Some Western diplomats here expect the Soviets to try to ease tensions between the two Yemens, thus lessening the regional isolation of South Yemen and perhaps paving the way for a serious Soviet bid to improve ties with the Saudis.

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