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Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci says the United States might back a Soviet peacekeeping role in the Persian Gulf, but he sees no cuts in U.S. forces in the area until Iran and Iraq are finally at peace.

"While the conflict was going on, we saw no need to bring the Soviet Union into the gulf," Carlucci said on Wednesday in an interview with Reuters and Visnews international television network."What kind of role they might be prepared to play in peacekeeping is something that would have to be developed by the U.N. secretary general," he said.

"We continue to be opposed to Soviet influence - but at the same time we want to be as supportive as possible of the secretary general."

Carlucci said the United States, which has nearly 30 warships in the region, would be willing to join such a multinational force but that U.S. participation could pose problems because of tense Iran-American relations. He said the American presence in the gulf would only be reduced once the threat to shipping is removed.

"If there is no tangible threat to American-flagged shipping or innocent shipping, then we would certainly cut down on our patrols and cut down on the size of our presence," he said.

Carlucci, who will pay a four-day visit to the Soviet Union beginning next Monday, refused to credit changing Soviet policy under Mikhail Gorbachev for recent moves to end regional conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia.

"Far more significant than glasnost (Soviet openness) has been the consistency of Western policy, the fact that the United States has rebuilt its strength, that we've had a strong and assertive policy, that we have been willing to support those fighting for freedom in their own countries," he said.

But the defense secretary, who will hold talks in Moscow with Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov and visit Soviet military bases, said he believed the Soviet forces were continuing to pull out of Afghanistan.