Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday referred to his country's nine-year involvement in Afghanistan as a "sin" and indicated it had fueled state spending and with it economic problems.

In a speech to a conference of the Moscow Communist Party, Gorbachev acknowledged the country was facing hard times but said the Soviet state had been somewhat unlucky in its recent attempts at economic reform.He noted that state finances had been strapped by a drop in world market oil prices, a main source of hard currency; the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl; last month's earthquake in Armenia; Afghanistan; and a cutback on alcohol sales.

"It would have been good had we been lucky," he said in remarks carried by Soviet television.

"But on the oil market the prices went down four or five times. Chernobyl, Armenia, Afghanistan - our old sins. And so on and so on.

"We got a grip on vodka ourselves and although we don't regret it we lost 40 billion roubles ($65 billion)," he said, referring to the loss in revenues from the Kremlin's crackdown on alcohol sales.

Under Gorbachev's leadership the Soviet Union has pledged to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by February 15. The Soviet forces were sent in December 1979 to help the Kabul government fight Moslem rebels.

The Soviet leader announced earlier this week that military spending would be reduced by 14.2 percent of its present secret figure. He said such cuts were necessary to try to halt growth in the Kremlin's budget deficit.