Debate to end Afghanistan's eight-year Soviet occupation opens today in the UN General Assembly, with the opposing sides locked in down-to-the-wire lobbying. At issue is adoption of a Pakistan-initiated resolution calling for the ``immediate withdrawal'' of the 125,000-man Red Army contingent. Pakistan and the draft's 47 cosponsors are lobbying to improve last year's voting line of 122 in favor and 20 against, with 11 abstentions.
Moscow and its backers are prodding Pakistan into altering the text. The text's provisions have been unchanged since the first annual assembly vote since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The draft also:
Calls for the recognition of Aghanistan's sovereignty, independence, and nonaligned status.
Reaffirms its people's right to self-determination.
Urges all parties to reach a political solution and create conditions that will encourage the return of the estimated 3 million to 5.5 million Afghan refugees.
Pakistani sources say Libya, Syria, South Yemen, and India have been lobbying on Moscow's behalf for changes to make the draft palatable to the Soviet bloc.
The Kremlin is said to be embarrassed by its continuing isolation on the issue. Except for assembly voting on Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, Afghanistan is virtually the only major UN agenda item on which the Soviet Union finds itself alienated from third-world balloting.
In the past two weeks, the Soviets have proposed several textual changes, among them:
Amending the withdrawal paragraph to include simultaneous ``cessation of interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan'' - an end to US, Pakistani, Chinese, and other support of the mujahideen (guerrillas).
Expressing satisfaction with ``reconciliation'' process initiated by the Soviet-backed Kabul regime.
Welcoming ``progress made'' at the UN-refereed indirect talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan rejected the first two proposals, but agreed to the reference to ``progress,'' provided the words ``so far'' were added. They pointed out that the Geneva talks have yet to settle the troop-pullout issue.
By press time, the Soviets had agreed to change ``national reconciliation'' to the less specific ``national accord'' and accept the ``so far'' reservation. On the first point, they watered down their demand to a call for ``respect for the principle of nonintereference'' in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Additional Pakistani pressure came from the highly publicized appearance here of Younis Khales, president of the Afghan resistance alliance. He assailed the indirect oeace talks, because the mujahideen were not consulted. UN ``decisions will not be accepted by the mujahideen unless we are accorded representation,'' he said.