INTRODUCTION: The President of the Soviet Union, Mr. Nikolai Podgorny, has left for an important?
INTRODUCTION: The President of the Soviet Union, Mr. Nikolai Podgorny, has left for an important African tour. He's visiting Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique -- three of the five so-called "front line" black African states committed to overthrowing the Rhodesian government.
SYNOPSIS: His tour is the first of its kind made by a member of the Kremlin leadership. The main aim, according to western news reports, appears to be the assertion of the Soviet claim to a roll in shaping the area's future, following diplomatic initiatives there by the United States and Britain. Mr. Podgorny is accompanied by a 120-man delegation, including General Sergei Sokolov, a foreign military aid specialist.
Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko was one of the Kremlin leaders at Mr. Podgorny's departure. Rhodesia's transition to black majority government is thought likely to be among the major topics the Soviet President will discuss with African leaders and Rhodesian nationalists.
Moscow would prefer the black majority rule in Rhodesia to take the form of a radical, pro-Soviet government, according to the news agency Reuters. The official Soviet view is that black nationalists alone will be stepping up their right against the white rule in southern Africa, making the role of the "front line" states more important.
Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Ilyichov, a long-standing China-expert, is also accompanying President Podgorny. Besides its rivalry with western powers in Africa, the Soviet Union competes for influence with its communist opponent, China.