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Vice President Dan Quayle says many of the changes occurring in the Soviet Union and among its communist neighbors can be traced to the "profound impact" of the defeat of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

In a speech Friday night to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Quayle said: "Look at Hungary, where the seeds of political pluaralism seem to be sprouting."Look at Poland, where the government is negotiating with Solidarity.

"Look at the ferment of the Baltic states.

"And look at the new outspokenness throughout the Soviet Union itself."

He then asked: "Can it be just a coincidence that all these remarkable events are taking place at the very same time that the Soviet Union is reeling from its defeat in Afghanistan? I think not."

The vice president also used his speech to try and assure conservative activists, often at odds with George Bush, that the new president would follow in the path of Ronald Reagan.

"Those who think that the George Bush, who served at Ronald Reagan's side for eight years, who worked with him to turn this country around, will somehow change colors now that he's president - those people couldn't be more mistaken," said Quayle.

"The revolution of low taxes, a strong defense, less regulation, support for freedom fighters and a commitment to moral values that began in 1981, will continue under the leadership of George Bush into the 1990s," he added.

But Quayle stopped short of giving the conservatives one pledge they want - a commitment the administration will seek military aid for the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua.

He quoted Bush as pledging support for the Contras and said: "We're going to do what has to be done . . . We're going to have to see if (Nicaraguan leader) Daniel Ortega means what he says about free elections.

"And if he does not, the people of Nicaragua will continue their fight for freedom - and they will deserve our support."

But the only specific support he mentioned was for humanitarian aid.

"We're going to insist on the continuance of humanitarian aid to keep the Contras alive," he said.