MOSCOW, FEB. 8 -- Here is a partial text of Monday's statement on Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev as translated into English by Tass, the official Soviet news agency:
The military conflict in Afghanistan has been going on for a long time now. It is one of the most bitter and painful regional conflicts. Judging by everything, certain prerequisites have now emerged for its political settlement . . . .
In the near future, a new round of talks conducted by Afghanistan and Pakistan through the personal representative of the United Nations secretary general will be held in Geneva. There are considerable chances that this round will become a final one.
By now documents covering all aspects of a settlement have been almost fully worked out at the Geneva negotiations. They include agreements between Afghanistan and Pakistan on noninterference in each other's internal affairs and on the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan; international guarantees of noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs; a document on the interrelationship of all elements of political settlement. There is also agreement on establishing a verification mechanism.
So what remains to be done? It is to establish a time frame for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan that would be acceptable to all . . . .
As for the political aspect of the matter, it is that the withdrawal of Soviet troops is, quite naturally, linked with precluding interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs: prerequisites for that have now been created to mutual satisfaction.
Seeking to facilitate a speedy and successful conclusion of the Geneva talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the governments of the U.S.S.R. and the Republic of Afghanistan have agreed to set a specific date for beginning the withdrawal of Soviet troops -- May 15, 1988 -- and to complete their withdrawal within 10 months. The date is set based on the assumption that agreements on the settlement would be signed no later than March 15, 1988, and that, accordingly, they would all enter into force simultaneously two months after that. If the agreements are signed before March 15, the withdrawal of troops will, accordingly, begin earlier.
Recently, another question has been raised, whether the phasing of Soviet troops withdrawal could be arranged in such as way as to withdraw, during the first phase already, a relatively greater portion of the Soviet contingent. Well, that too could be done. The Afghan leadership and we agree to it . . . .
The Afghans themselves will decide the final status of their country among other nations. Most often it is being said that the future peaceful Afghanistan will be an independent, nonaligned and neutral state. Well, we would only be happy to have such a neighbor on our southern borders.
In connection with the question of beginning the withdrawal of Soviet troops, there is a need to make clear our position on yet another aspect -- whether the withdrawal is linked with the completion of efforts to set up a new coalition government in Afghanistan, i.e., with bringing the policy of national reconciliation to fruition. We are convinced that it is not . . . .
And now about our boys, our soldiers in Afghanistan. They have been doing their duty honestly, performing acts of self-denial and heroism.
Our people profoundly respect those who were called to serve in Afghanistan. The state provides for them, as a matter of priority, good educational opportunities and a chance to get interesting, worthy work.
The memory of those who have died a hero's death in Afghanistan is sacred to us. It is the duty of party and Soviet authorities to make sure that their families and relatives are taken care of with concern, attention and kindness.
And, finally, when the Afghan knot is untied, it will have the most profound impact on other regional conflicts too.