MOSCOW, JAN. 22 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev today called for increased international efforts to prevent the Persian Gulf War from widening, but he reiterated his support for the U.S.-led attempt to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
"Events in the gulf are clearly tending to escalate. That is very dangerous. We must do all we can to stop the conflict from spreading," Gorbachev said during a brief appearance at the Foreign Ministry press center here this evening.
Gorbachev's statement came on the heels of attacks by government security forces on civilians in Lithuania and Latvia in the last 10 days. The president emphasized that there have been no changes in Soviet domestic or foreign policies, despite the incidents in the Baltic republics.
An independent Soviet news agency meanwhile quoted an unidentified member of the Soviet general staff as saying that 90 percent of all allied air strikes were missing their targets. The agency, Interfax, said a significant number of Iraqi aircraft and airports had not been hit, despite claims to the contrary.
The Soviet Union was Iraq's leading arms supplier before the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and, until recently, several hundred Soviet military advisers were assisting the Iraqi armed forces in the use of Soviet hardware.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply over the past few months, but Soviet officials still are interested in the performance of their weapons.
Interfax quoted the general, who did not want to be named, as saying Iraqi air bases were well camouflaged and difficult to detect. He said 30 antiaircraft systems remained intact despite massive allied bombardment of Iraq, and 11 were knocked out.
The general gtaff source was quoted as saying the U.S.-led coalition forces had used bad weather as an excuse to ground many aircraft while military leaders reviewed their strategy.
"After the Iraqis downed five planes of the multinational coalition in one day, the coalition aircraft stayed on the ground, allegedly because of bad weather," he said. "In fact it was grounded for a different reason. Adjustments were being made in tactics."
The official Soviet news agency Tass reported that Soviet legislative leaders expressed concern over the crisis in the Persian Gulf at a meeting today with Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Belonogov.
The lawmakers adopted a resolution calling for the "quickest possible end to military action and the restoration of peace."
In his statement tonight, which was an answer to a written question, Gorbachev described the policies of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as "irresponsible."
Saying that the events in the gulf might get out of control, he called for increased efforts to "settle the conflict by political means." an. 22..Secretary General's appeal...UN.