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Soviet Bloc Urges Conventional Talks, Swift Strategic Arms Pact

March 30, 1988

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The Soviet Union and its allies on Wednesday urged the superpowers to sign a pact cutting strategic nuclear arsenals in half by the end of June.

The seven Warsaw Pact foreign ministers also said both should agree to abide by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that Moscow says bars any ″Star Wars″ missile defense.

After a two-day meeting in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the foreign ministers also urged NATO to begin talks on reducing conventional forces in Europe this year and offered separate negotiations on the disputed issue of battlefield nuclear weapons.

The appeals, published by the Bulgarian news agency BTA and monitored in Vienna, indicated that Mikhail S. Gorbachev is eager to seal a pact to halve intercontinental nuclear missiles but is not insisting it be ready to sign when he meets President Reagan in Moscow May 29 to June 2.

Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vadim Loginov told journalists in Sofia on Wednesday the Kremlin still hopes the agreement can be signed during the Moscow summit.

But the Warsaw Pact statement indicated Moscow links a pact on strategic arms to adherence to the 1972 ABM treaty that set limits on superpower missile defenses.

As reported by BTA, the statement did not make clear whether Moscow wants the ABM treaty kept indefinitely, or is prepared to agree a certain time span during which both superpowers agree to comply with the 1972 accord.

The statement called on all states to work ″to conclude, in the first half of 1988, a treaty between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. on a 50 percent reduction of strategic offensive arms, as well as agreement on strict compliance with the ABM treaty as signed in 1972 without leaving it for an agreed upon period duration.″

The Reagan administration has argued that the ABM accord permits research and testing of the its space-based missile defense project, popularly called ″Star Wars.″ Moscow insists the ABM accord rules out any such defense.

The Warsaw Pact offer to split negotiations on conventional arms and troops in Europe and battlefield nuclear weapons appeared designed to overcome an impasse on new talks to reduce conventional capabilities from the Atlantic to the Urals.

The Warsaw Pact nations and 16 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have haggled since February 1987 over a mandate for new talks on conventional forces across Europe.

East bloc insistence on including battlefield nuclear weapons and weapons with both conventional and nuclear applications has been one key issue blocking agreement.

The statement said talks on what NATO calls conventional stability should begin this year, but set no time for the separate negotations on tactical nuclear and dual capability weapons.

It said the two military blocs should exchange data on conventional capabilities in Europe ″as soon as possible″ and agreed to use any new negotations ″to identify and eliminate, on a mutual basis, existing asymmetries and imbalances both at all-European and regional scale.″

East-West disagreement over how to count Warsaw Pact and NATO troop levels has stalled Vienna talks on reducing conventional forces in central Europe since they opened in 1973.

Those negotations, known as the Mutual Balanced and Force Reduction Talks, are likely to be wound down if new talks on conventional stability are started.

Last week, the East and West said they had agreed the talks should be limited to the 23 NATO and Warsaw Pact nations, and had agreed on ways to negotiate eventual verification.

Agreement on new talks on conventional forces may pave the way for settlement of other disputes, including human rights issues, at the 35-nation Vienna conference on European security and cooperation.

That conference opened in November 1986 to review compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The document published by BTA indicated human rights matters also were discussed this week in Sofia.