Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev said today that "flames of war" threaten the Middle East and he repeated his desire for international conferences on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Persian Gulf region and the civil war in Afghanistan.
Brezhnev, in a nationally televised speech from Tbilisi, capital of the Georgian Soviet Republic, also condemned the decision by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to deploy U.S. medium-range missiles in Europe and said the Soviet Union will take its own defense measures.
In Washington, Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. rejected Brezhnev's call for an international conference on Lebanon, saying at a press conference that before any such talks are held about Lebanon, such a conference should be called to deal with Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
[Haig said the United States has been in contact with the Soviet Union on the Lebanese crisis all along, but "it's too early to say whether they have made a constructive or counter-productive contribution."]
"What is happening in the Middle East is profoundly tragic and dangerous," Brezhnev said. "Our miscalculation and the flames of war could sweep the entire Mideast region. And it is not known how far the sparks of this fire could scatter."
The Soviet leader said tension in the Persian Gulf region "is being sharpened because Washington is trying to bring gross pressure on Iran and organize intervention against the Afghan revolution. The strain is aggravated by the unprecedented concentration of military forces of the United States in the entire region."
Iran has been fighting Iraq, a Soviet ally, for eight months. The Soviet has based at least 85,00 troops in Afghanistan since January 1980 to bolster the pro-Soviet Afghan government and help it battle anti-communist Moslem rebels.
Brezhnev's speech underlined separate Soviet campaigns to regain lost diplomatic ground in the Middle East and gain international recognition for the Afghan regime of Babrak Karmal.
His proposal for a Middle East conference is expected to come up next Tuesday when Jordan's King Hussein begins a three-day visit to the Soviet capital, his first since 1976. Hussein, a staunch U.S. ally, is considered an essential player in any comprehensive regional settlement because of the large number of Palestinians living in Jordanian territory bordering Israel.
Other recent Arab visitors to the Kremlin include Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmed Sabah and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Algerian sources have said Algerian President Benjedid Chadli also may travel to Moscow by the end of June.
Moscow opposed the 1978 Camp David accord involving the United States, Egypt and Israel, and has sought a stronger role in Middle East neogtiations.
"One shoudl not close one's eyes on the denial of rights to millions of suffering Palestinians," Brezhnev said, and urged sympathy for the people of Lebanon, which he declared is "literally bleeding and torn apart by Israeli troops."
Brezhnev called for a conference "to reach an agreement separately on ensuring peace and security in the Perian Gulf region, and also separately on settlement of the situation around Afghanistan. Or to discuss the international aspects of both these questions."
Western governments have opposed such a conference on grounds it would be seen as an implicit international endorsement of the Babrak regime set up with Soviet intervention in December 1979.
Brezhnev also made his first public comments on the NATO meeting this month in Rome that rejected a Soviet call for a moritorium on European deployment of medium-range nuclear warheads and approved plans to install 572 U.S. cruise and Pershing II missiles.
Brezhnev declared Soviet willingness to discuss arms limitation in Europe but said, "It is up to Washington to give its answer. The NATO plans-recently confirmed in Rome serve to satisfy the infinite appetite of the Pentagon. They do not correspond to the interests of security.
"We cannot allow, without consequences, the deployment on European territory of new American nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S.S.R. and its allies. In this case we shall have to take additional defense measures."