The man considered most likely to be chosen to lead South Yemen's socialist government when the ruling party's leadership meets to consolidate its authority has accused the United States of subversive involvement in the fighting that led the country to the brink of civil war.

Salem Saleh Mohammed, a member of the 11-member ruling Politburo and a secretary of the Yemen Socialist Party, provided no specific evidence to substantiate his assertion, but he said that supporters of former president Ali Nasser Mohammed's bloody attempt to eliminate his political rivals on Jan. 13 had received "huge quantities of money from America."

Saleh Mohammed, who played a key role in helping get the provisional government functioning after Nasser Mohammed and his Politburo backers fled when their forces were defeated two weeks ago, told a group of western journalists here this week, "We have information that America is supporting Ali Nasser [Mohammed] and his clique in order to carry out subversive activities. They don't want to have stability in Democratic Yemen."

He added, "We have accurate and sure information that Ali Nasser and his group received military assistance." Saleh Mohammed said government troops had confiscated foreign-made weapons and communications equipment, but he did not specify their country of origin.

[Nasser Mohammed conferred with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus Thursday, The Associated Press reported, quoting the official Syrian Arab News Agency.]

Saleh Mohammed indicated that Soviet attempts to mediate a cease-fire in the early stages of the fighting, which lasted three weeks and killed hundreds -- and possibly thousands -- had put the two allies in an awkward position and ended in the collapse of negotiations.

He said that a mediating committee consisting of two members of the Yemen Socialist Party, two representatives of Nasser Mohammed's faction, a Palestinian delegate and Soviet representatives had tried to negotiate a cease-fire but failed.

"For us, everything was decided. We could not let Aden become another Beirut," Saleh Mohammed said.

Asked what messages the Soviets had sent the new government since the crisis, Saleh Mohammed said, "I think the Soviet attitude will be an attitude of friendship and that . . . it stands beside our people against any aggression. What messages we received reflect this point of view."

Saleh Mohammed, whose faction in the party had been critical of Nasser Mohammed's foreign policy -- particularly toward conservative Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Oman -- was conciliatory when speaking of those countries and of North Yemen. He said that North Yemeni security forces had confiscated heavy weapons from Nasser Mohammed's supporters who fled across the border.

"We have good relations with capitalist countries, nonaligned countries, socialist countries and the Soviet Union.

"So we feel there will not be any change in our foreign policy, said Saleh Mohammed, whose faction is characterized as representing the more radical position of the rival groups in the Socialist Party here.

Saleh Mohammed, said to be the likely successor to provisional President Haidar Abu Bakr Attas, said western nations have "some kind of Soviet complex, [which] might be a result of enmity between communism and capitalism."

Saleh Mohammed sought to minimize the Soviet presence here, which includes military advisers, a naval base and a listening station on the island of Socotra.

"The Soviet Union has many possibilities to defend its interests in the region," he said, adding that it did not need South Yemen. He was critical of reporters' focusing on the Soviet presence, saying, "The first [relief] aircraft to arrive in Aden was a Soviet aircraft. The first [relief] ship to arrive in Aden was a Soviet ship. But what we received from the western countries was the first journalists."