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More Soviet arms for N. Yemen

The President of North Yemen, Saudi Arabia's impoverished but strategically important neighbor, seems to have won a commitment from the Soviet Union for further arms supplies, Monitor correspondent Ned Temko writes.

A joint Soviet-Yemeni communique released at the end of his visit to Moscow Oct. 28 - and hours before the US Senate vote on selling radar planes to the Saudis - spoke of a mutual ''striving to broaden and perfect'' military ties.

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Although the statement reported North Yemeni support for a Soviet proposal to convene a Mideast peace conference, the visiting President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seemed otherwise determined to hold to his course of ''positive neutrality'' in relations with the superpowers.

The Soviets have long been North Yemen's main arms supplier. But the United States rushed emergency military aid to the country in 1979 during its brief border war with pro-Soviet South Yemen.

Diplomats here said one catalyst for Mr. Saleh's visit seemed to be a recent strain in his relations with the Saudis, who are said to have rebuffed North Yemeni requests to help pay off the country's arms debt to Moscow and to have blocked North Yemeni membership in a ''cooperation council'' formed recently by moderate Gulf states.

The Saudis are thought to be concerned that Mr. Saleh might move closer to Marxist South Yemen.

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