ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) _ An Armenian activist banished from the Soviet Union for his reports on ethnic unrest was flying to Rome today, a U.S. diplomat said.

Paruyr Ayrikyan arrived in this East Africa nation, a Soviet ally, after he was charged with slander and expelled from the Soviet Union on July 21. His eventual destination is the United States.

The accusations stemmed from his reports to Western journalists on a campaign by ethnic Armenians for annexation of the disputed Nagorno-Karabak h region in Azerbaijan by the neighboring southern Soviet republic of Armenia.

Ayrikyan, 39, has been promised asylum in the United States. He has said his wife, three children and several other relatives will join him there.

However, he has vowed never to abandon efforts to return to Armenia.

The activist served 17 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps before his release last year.

The U.S. diplomat, who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity, did not say when Ayrikyan would arrive in the United States.

Ayrikyan has said he will reunite with relatives in France before heading for the United States. He planned to settle in the Los Angeles area.