Gorbachev details food needs U.S. to send aid to Moscow for distribution.

October 10, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- With food lines lengthening in major Soviet cities and winter fast approaching, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev formally presented a detailed request to the United States for emergency food assistance yesterday at a Kremlin meeting with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Edward R. Madigan.

The details of Gorbachev's request, which U.S. officials said included specific dollar figures and tonnage amounts for each type of food the Soviets want from the West, were not disclosed, and the Bush administration has not yet decided exactly how much to give. Earlier, Soviet officials had indicated that they want a total of $10.5 billion in Western assistance.

Although he refused to say how much aid the the United States would give, Madigan stressed that the administration was committed to providing an emergency food package that would go well beyond the $1.5 billion in loan guarantees and credits for Soviet purchases of American grain that had already been announced.

Madigan also made clear that the United States planned to funnel most of its food assistance through Gorbachev and the central government. The goal is to avoid the political and logistic headaches that might result from trying to parcel aid out directly to individual republics in the splintering Soviet Union.

"When we begin to talk about the shipment of bulk food commodities, it is very difficult to talk about doing that with individual republics, when you have to ship it through ports and across other regions," Madigan said. "It would be much easier to deal with the center."

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