A senior Soviet commentator today called President Carter's offer to seek transitional arrangements for restoring peace to Afghanistan "deliberately vague, absolutely unclear," and accused Carter of deception.
Tass press agency analyst Yuri Kornilov said Carter's purpose is to Create the impression Washington wants a settlement [while it] avoids giving an answer" to the Kabul Marxists' proposal that they be recognized as Afghanistan's legitimate government, and then hold peace talks with Pakistan and Iran.
In Belgrade last night, Carter revived his February suggestion for an interim peace-keeping force in Afghanistan, full Soviet military withdrawal, free elections, and eventually, a nonaligned status for the country. His proposal came two days after the Soviets announced they are withdrawing 108 tanks and a troop division.
Meanwhile, Pravda also criticized the United States for not responding positively to the troop withdrawal, and assailed Iran for allegedly allowing Afghan rebels to operate from Iranian bases.
The Communist Party daily charged that "a large regional center of armed struggle against the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan" is based in Mashad, Iran, near the Afghan border.
"One can hardly assume that the Mashad center could function without the knowledge of the local authorities,"wrote Alexei Petrov. He asserted that Afghan rebel headquarters in Mashad are run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, and thus "men from the CIA are acting also in Iranian territory."
The Soviets have ben angered by Iranian support for the rebels and offically denounced Iranian Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh last week for his outspoken anti-Soviet remarks.
These Soviet press comments came as White House sources disclosed today that Secretary of State Edmund Muskie at his Vienna meeting last month with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko conveyed U.S. interest in transforming Afghanistan into a nonaligned state and recognizing "legitimate security interests" of the Soviets in Afghanistan's fate.
Pravda's Petrov asserted that numerous European voices already have "emphasized that a partial pullout testifies in favor of East-West contracts, in favor of negotiated settlement of differences."
He accused the United States alone within the Western bloc of failing to consider the withdrawal "another pointer in the seriousness of the U.S.S.R.'s intention to work for a polical settlement of the existing problem."
There is deep skepticism here within the foreign diplomatic community over the troop withdrawal.The Soviets have not made clear whether it means an actual overall reduction in their forces, which total about 85,000 by Western estimates.
The timing of the withdrawal, during the Venice summit conference and a week before West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt arrives here for a two-day summit with Leonid Brezhnev, and today's press commentaries, seem aimed at causing further strains within the Western alliance.