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Soviet Embassy admits staffer disappeared

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The Soviet Union, reacting to Belgian press reports that a young KGB officer in Brussels defected recently to the United States, admitted Friday that a member of its staff had disappeared in March.

The Soviet Embassy in Brussels identified the man as Igor N. Cherpinski, the embassy's third secretary, and said he disappeared with his wife and a 3-year-old son.

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'Up to now the embassy has not received any official reply apart from oral statements that the family in question was not on Belgian territory,' the Soviets said.

The Brussels daily newspaper La Libre Belgique reported Tuesday a young KGB officer recently had sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy and was promptly sent to the United States where he revealed the names of his contacts in Brussels.

The newspaper said they included a Western ambassador to the European Community or to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an assistant to EC Commission President Jacques Delors, a high official of the Defense ministry and a member of the office of Interior Minister Louis Tobback.

It said the assistant to Delors was involved in negotiating agreements between the EC and East European countries.

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Belgian government officials refused comment on the newspaper report but an EC spokesman admitted Tuesday a commission official had been in contact with the person in question 'in the framework of his duties.'

He insisted, however, the official was neither an assistant to Delors nor in charge of negotiating agreements with East European countries.

The Soviet statement said Cherpinski 'is a young diplomat, born in 1962, on duty at the embassy since March 1989. He was in charge of cultural relations between the USSR and Belgium, and also belonged to the embassy press service.'

'As far as known by the embassy, I.N. Cherpinski did not maintain contacts with the Commission of the European Community, with NATO or with members of Belgian ministerial offices.

'In fact, the veracity of any 'revelations' by a junior officer of the embassy appears highly doubtful,' the embassy statement said.

Press reports have linked the defection of the Soviet Embassy official to the forced resignation of the Luxembourg ambassador to NATO in April.

Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jacques Poos, told his country's Parliament last month that Ambassador Guy de Muyser, 64, resigned when the government took away his security clearance April 25.

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He said the government had received information from NATO security services that de Muyser had 'infringed security rules set by the alliance.'

He did not specify which NATO security rules had been infringed and Luxembourg officials refused at the time to confirm reports that de Muyser had made several trips to Moscow without approval from NATO's secretary-general and had delivered a classified document to a Soviet contact.

De Muyser, who was Luxembourg's permanent representative to NATO since 1986, had served as ambassador to Moscow from 1981 to 1983.

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