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Grain embargo signals

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Talk about a move to lift Washington's grain embargo against the Soviet Union comes before the Reagan administration has put forth its coherent policy for East-West relations. Any change in the embargo should await completion of such a policy. In international terms it would be just as much a "wrong signal" to end the resitrictions now as it was when the administration first used that phrase. The White House and State Department have wisely reaffirmed this position with a joint statement that, in effect, contradicted speculation by various officials on the imminent likelihood of halting the embargo.

In the circumstances, such a shift would give an impression of being taken for domestic political reasons. It could rally support for Mr. Reagan's farm legislation from farmers who oppose the embargo. It would follow through on Mr. Reagan's own campaign promise to end the restrictions. It would respond to his secretaries of agriculture and commerce, who seek such an outcome.

The problem is that the time is not ripe for it. Here are some of the reasons:

* The embargo was begun in reaction to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Moscow has not responded to any international efforts to bring a just and peaceful settlement there. Recently the European Community turned down a request from France to sell more grain to Russia. If the US resumes full grain sales it will be letting down those nations that have cooperated with it, as well as turning its back on the plight of Afghanistan.


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