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PRAVDA SLAMS SOVIET ARMS-REDUCTION PLAN

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The newspaper Pravda attacked the latest Soviet arms cuts Tuesday, saying they were hasty, badly thought out and should have been linked to promises of huge Western aid.

President Mikhail Gorbachev announced radical arms cuts Saturday, including abolition of Soviet short-range nuclear weapons, matching an initiative by President Bush.But Pravda commentator Yevgeny Shashkov, in a stinging article headlined with the old Russian proverb "Measure The Cloth Seven Times Before Cutting It," said the cuts would only cause more trouble for the already struggling Soviet economy.

Pravda, for decades the official voice of the Soviet Communist Party, was suspended after August's failed coup by hard-line Communists. The paper has formally severed links with the party but is still the voice of what remains of the old Communist order.

It was the first significant Soviet attack on the arms cuts, hailed around the world as a major step toward slashing stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

"Why did we not once tell the West directly that the scope of our disarmament initiatives and their stupendous price for the Soviet economy implies quite specific and huge Western aid to convert whole sectors of our already ailing economy?" Shashkov asked.

Gorbachev hopes to reap a rich peace dividend from the cuts, diverting billions of dollars from weapons production into manufacturing consumer goods. But many military enterprises lack the money and know-how to carry out effective conversions.

"We're pretty much fed up with empty promises about how meat will appear on everyone's table in a year or two if we cut up our missiles," Shashkov wrote. He said the country had backed disarmament policies in a bid to benefit the entire world, but in practice had dealt a huge blow to its economy and millions of ordinary people.

Shashkov raised the specter of Soviet scientists selling their knowledge abroad unless the West ended its restrictions on Soviet purchases of foreign technology.

"Thousands of Soviet physicists and engineers could turn into a contingent of mercenaries," he said. "It would not surprise me if, in a while, the number of countries in the `nuclear club' rises sharply as they build nuclear weapons on the knowledge of hired Soviet scientists."