The U.N. General Assembly today renewed its call for the immediate withdrawal of "foreign" troops from Afghanistan as an overwhelming majority of Third World countries joined the West to deal a severe diplomatic blow to Moscow.
The vote was 111 to 22, with seven additional African nations joining the reassertion that last December's Soviet invasion continues to be an act beyond acceptable limits for an ideologically diverse majority within the international community.
As last January, when a similar resolution was adopted by a vote of 104 to 18, the Soviet Union was supported only by its Warsaw Pact allies and Third World supporters including Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Angola, South Yemen, Mozambique, and Loas. Today they were joined by Syria, which has abstained in January but which recently signed a cooperation treaty with Moscow, and the tiny countries of Grenada, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Madagascar.
Iraq, which also has a friendship treaty with Moscow, was absent today. The Iraquis are currently waging war against Iran and depend on Moscow for weapons. Libya, another Soviet supporter, also was absent.
The sponsors of today's draft, which included 40 Third World nations led by Pakistan, claimed their increased majority as a diplomatic victory. But to get the additional votes, the sponsors had to tone down their text, omitting a phrase deploring the invasion and a demand that the withdrawal of foreign troops -- the Soviets were not mentioned by name -- be total and unconditional.
This mild wording brought complaints from some of the self-exiled Afghan diplomats who had come here to lobby for their cause.The resolution is "weak" and "still has many defects -- those two major words are missing," said Fareed Rashid, a former Afghan diplomat.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Agha Shahi defended his tactics on the grounds that a large vote total was more important than strong wording. He denied suggestions by some of the Afghans that his government was seeking to stay on good terms with Moscow by exercising both diplomatic and military restraint in its support for the rebel cause.
This week's three-day debate on the Afghan situation was noticeably lacking in emotional intensity. "There was not that much excitement," said one Filipino diplomat, "because of the feeling that not much can be done about the Russian presence."
The one significant additional element in today's resolution was an expression of "hope" that Secretary General Kurt Waldheim would appoint a special representative on the Afghan situation "with a view toward promoting a political solution."
U.N. officials said they expected Waldheim to comply in time with the desire of such a large U.N. majority, and appoint a representative.
But Western and Pakistani diplomats said that the Soviets, after first hinting that they might cooperate with such an envoy, now insist that he would not be welcomed in either Moscow or Kabul.
Even without Soviet cooperation, however, the very existence of such a permanent U.N. mechanism of Afghanistan means the issue will remain alive on the U.N. agenda as a continuing irritant to the Soviets.
The Soviets demonstrated their concern over today's rebuff by reacting with a heavy hand to the Third World drive.
The Soviet ambassador, Oleg Troyanovsky, rose just before the vote to denounce the resolution as "inadmissible interference" in the affairs of Afghanistan, and to blame the United States in particular for "creating a threat of war and undermining detente."
Third World diplomats said Moscow had lobbied intensively in capitals around the world, warning that a vote for the resolution would be viewed as an "unfriendly act" -- a stern warning in the language of diplomacy.
"The real unfriendly act," replied American Ambassador Donald McHenry in his speech to the assembly, "was the invasion of Afghanistan."
McHenry rejected the concept that this is a Cold War dispute. He called Soviet charges that the Afghan rebels are dependent on the United States "cynical fabrications unworthy of further comment."