Weinberger visits tense Afghanistan border


RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger told refugees from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan Saturday that the United States wants them to regain their freedom, but he ignored their plea for weapons to shoot down Soviet aircraft.

The encounter took place at a camp housing some of the 3 million refugees from Afghanistan, where Moslem guerrillas are strug:ling to oust a Soviet-installed government supported by 115,000 Soviet troops.


After visiting the Nasibagh refugee camp in Peshawar, 35 miles from the tense border with Afghanistan, Weinberger flew to Rawalpindi - ajoining the capital of Islamabad -- for a dinner at the residence of President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

At the refugee camp, he expressed solidarity with about 250 Afghan men who sat on the stony floor of a shelter with a corrugated steel roof.

A spokesman for the refugees, Melik Nazir, stood before Weinberger and appealed for antiaricraft weapons to repel Soviet air attacks against rebel forces in Afghanistan.

'Nations like the United States, who have felt deeply for your plight, will do all they can to ensure that people willing to fight for their freedom ... do not fail,' Weinberger said. But he made no mention of the appeal for weapons.


Speaking to American reporters traveling with Weinberger, Zia warned against a U.S. military buildup in the PerWian Gulf.

He suggested instead that a strengthened Pakistani army take over the role of protecting the vital oil region.

'Solely depending on a military option of utilizing the rapid deployment force in case it is required for the defense of the (Gulf) ... will be very dicey,' he said.

'U.S. strengthening of Pakistan and the Gulf countries will go a long way in creating stability in the region rather than depending on the RDF,' Zia said.

The United States has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to build base facilities and staging areas in Oman, Kenya, Somalia, Morocco and elsewhere for use by the RDF to counter a Soviet threat to the PerWian Gulf.

'I feel that, in any manner, the United States can strengthen the six (Gulf) countries and that should not be through the availability of the RDF,' Zia said.

'What else could be greater than the Pakistani army providing a ready made force in any of the other countries?'

The Reagan administration has agreed to provide Pakistan with $3.2 billion in aid over the next five years, $1.55 billion of it for the military.


Zia, asserting that Pakistan is showing much patience in tolerating Soviet overflights, warned that 'One day, if I can have it, I will get one of these aircraft down in Pakistan.'

Weinberger spent most of the day near the Afghan border, meeting first Afghan refugees then flying in a Pakistani Soviet-built MI-8 helicopter to the fabled Khyber Pass with soldiers of the Khyber Rifles as his escort.

Weinberger, who arrived Friday, holds a news conference Sunday before departing for Rome and an audience with Pope John Paul II Monday.

Rome is the final stop on Weinberger's 12-day tour, which included four days in China.

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