BONN, Dec. 28, Reuter: Pakistani President Mohammad Ziaul-Haq said he believed the Soviet Union would fulfill its public pledge to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

“We can believe (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev’s words that the Soviet Union will pull out from Afghanistan,” Zia told the West German television channel ZDF in an interview screened on Monday night.

“The (Soviet) losses in equipment are unbelievable, and from a political point of view Afghanistan stands in the way of Gorbachev’s plans to present himself to the ‘world as a man of peace”, Zia said.

 ‘Western experts estimate that Moscow has kept some 120,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan since its 1979 military intervention in the country.

Soviet officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that they want to withdraw the soldiers.

Zia said the only item still not agreed at talks in Geneva on the future of Afghanistan was a timetable for a pullout and that was “unimportant”

“If the Soviets wanted to, they could begin their withdrawal tomorrow”, Zia said.

“What they are really worried about is what role this Afghanistan would play when they have left. That is important to them”.

Zia stressed that it was important for the West to cooperate with the Soviet Union on a timetable for withdrawal.

“Time is on the Russians’ side”, he said.

Zia said when the Soviet troops decided to withdraw, there would have to be an interim government in Kabul. “An interim government that enjoys the trust of the freedom fighters (Afghan guerrillas) and of the refugees”.

Afghan Moslem rebels have been fighting the Soviet backed Communist government in Kabul in a war which has driven millions of ordinary people out of Afghanistan into neighboring Pakistan and Iran,

The interview was conducted in Pakistan last week.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 1, 1988