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Soviets Say U.S. Indirectly To Blame For Zia’s Death

August 22, 1988

MOSCOW (AP) _ A Soviet commentator today rejected suggestions that the Kremlin or its Afghan allies were responsible for the plane crash that killed Pakistan’s president, saying the United States was indirectly to blame.

Yuri Glukhov wrote in today’s edition of the Communist Party daily Pravda that President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq had created dangerous conditions in his country through the assistance of the United States.

″On Pakistani territory are dozens of bases where inveterate terrorist cut-throats train,″ Glukhov wrote.

He did not say whether he thinks the United States was directly involved in Wednesday’s plane crash that killed Zia and U.S. Ambassador Arnold Raphel. He said an inquiry would have to be completed to determine whether sabotage was involved.

Zia, Raphel and 28 others died when the C-130 transport plane exploded after takeoff following a field inspection of new U.S.-built battle tanks about 30 miles west of the Indian border, near the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur.

Pakistan serves as a base for Moslem guerrillas fighting the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan. The United States also backs the insurgents, and Glukhov alluded to this in a veiled accusation against the United States.

″There are grounds to believe that the U.S.A. played a fatal role in Zia’s fate. It is the U.S.A. that prevented Pakistan from getting out of a chronic crisis and achieving stability,″ the commentator wrote.

He said without elaborating that U.S. pressure had drawn Pakistan into an undeclared war against Afghanistan.

The new Pakistani president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, has said the crash was an act of sabotage but declined to speculate on who might be responsible.

Several Pakistani newspapers published unsourced reports that officials believed the plane was hit by a missile. Others reported they suspected a bomb in the cockpit. Still others said explosives may have been concealed in a basket of mangos.

Pravda quoted the Times of London as saying in an editorial that if an investigation shows the crash resulted from a bomb explosion, then Afghan communists and their Soviet allies should be suspected. Glukhov said such accusations reflect the ″incompetence″ of people trying to ″throw a shadow″ over Afghan and Soviet efforts to bring peace to the region.

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