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Iraq asks Soviets to prod Iran

Iraq has asked the Soviet Union to try to push Iran toward a negotiated settlement of the Gulf war, reports Monitor correspondent Ned Temko.

Diplomats here say that the move came during a brief visit early in June by Tariq Aziz, a member of Iraq's revolutionary command council. He met Boris Ponomaryov, a candidate member of the Soviet Politburo, and Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Arkhipov.

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Yet, one diplomat was told by a Soviet official that Moscow sees little hope Iran's ruling mullahs will pay early heed to outside mediators.

Soviet officials say that in periodic contacts with both sides in the Iran-Iraq conflict, Moscow has made known its feeling that the war should be brought to an end. The Kremlin has maintained public neutrality in the conflict and according to Western reports, has provided virtually no direct military backing to either side.

Moscow has been trying steadily to improve ties with post-shah Iran. The Soviets also have a formal friendship pact with Iraq, though relations between the countries have been strained in recent years.

One senior Soviet official has made clear in private comments to the Monitor that Moscow hopes the Iranians will not follow up recent battlefield advances by pushing onto Iraqi soil, saying this would complicate the Soviets' efforts to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

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