Secretary of State James Baker declared at the halfway point of his 14-nation NATO tour that the Soviet Union should help rebuild Afghanistan now that Red Army troops have ended their invasion.
Baker offered the comment before arriving in Brussels for talks with Belgian leaders and for a 90-minute stop at NATO headquarters, where he met privately Thursday with NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner and then ate lunch with ambassadors of the organization's 16 member nations."We have discussed the full range of East-West issues," he said in his only comment upon bidding farewell to Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens and Foreign Minister Leo Tindemans to drive to the NATO building on the outskirts of Brussels. From there the secretary of state flew to Luxembourg.
From Luxembourg he was bound to The Netherlands before returning to Brussels for a Friday meeting with Jacques Delors, the European Community's executive commission president, and Frans Andriessen, external relations vice president.
It was in the middle of his whirlwind six-day journey that Baker made the comments about the Soviet Union's military withdrawal from Afghanistan, an event that concluded officially on deadline Wednesday.
In Madrid, Spain, where he traveled from Italy before continuing to Lisbon, Portugal, Baker told reporters Wednesday, "The last 10 years of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan are a tragic chapter in that nation's history. I think it's appropriate now to call upon the Soviets to take part in the reconstruction of Afghanistan."
In Lisbon, Baker had less to say after meeting separately with Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva and Foreign Minister Joao de Deus Pinheiro.
Baker said merely that his discussions covered "a full range of issues," including NATO, East-West relations and southern African developments, particularly in war-torn Angola, which Lisbon ruled until 1975.
"It's basically a chance to get acquainted and for consultations before (President Bush's) new administration firmly sets its foreign policy agenda," a U.S. official explained.