ISLAMABAD, JUNE 22, REUTER —Afghan President Najibullah on Saturday heads for the United Nations and a non: aligned nations meeting in Cuba in what diplomats say is a major effort to win friends,

Diplomats in Kabul and Islamabad say Najibullah’s trip Is a diplomatic effort to portray himself as a man of peace as the time looms when his leftist government stands alone against Moslem) guerillas without Soviet Army divisions to back home.

The diplomats said they expected him to use the two forum’s to contrast his people’s democratic party of Afghanistan’s (PDPA) talk of peace and reconciliation to the guerrilla vows to destroy him.

He starts the 10-day trip three weeks after the first of over 100,000 Soviet troops backing the Kabul government started to pull out of Afghanistan under a U.N–brokered pact.

By August, half the Soviet troops are due to have gone home and all are to have left within nine months of the April 15 accord, leaving the Afghan army to fight heavily armed guerrillas known as Mujahideen,

The guerrillas have spurned Najibullah’s reconciliation appeals, including offers to join a new government and parliament.

In Washington and other west leaning capitals, Najibullah is seen as the main stumbling block to the end of a long and bloody war that has cost over ‘one million lives and seen at least five million afghans Into exile.

Diplomats in Kabul say the burly but smooth Najibullah probably sees his address to a special U.N. conference as an ideal opportunity to change that image and impress with talk of peace to win international credibility.

They said that in Havana, he will hope for endorsement from non-aligned nations, aided by Guba and India, to which he paid a key visit shortly after the U.N. accord was signed in Geneva.

India, who’s arch-rival Pakistan is the main backer of the guerrillas, could be expected to help Najibullah lobby the nonaligned nations of Asia for support, while Cuba helped in Latin America, the diplomats said.

Some diplomats, pointing to the deep division within the PDPA between his own Parcham Wing and the Khalq faction led by interior minister. Mohammad Gulabzol, say Najibullah might be risking a coup by going abroad.

But most say that the length of the trip suggests Najibullah is confident no such danger exists. There is also a firm belief among Afghan officials that he is the only one who can control the party and the army.

Article extracted from this publication >> June 10, 1988