MOSCOW - Veteran diplomat Yuli Vorontsov, who served the Soviet Union and Russia as ambassador to Afghanistan and the United States in a career spanning the Cold War and the Gulf War, died Wednesday at age 78, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Vorontsov died in Moscow, the ministry said, ending a "glorious diplomatic path" that also included stints as ambassador to the United Nations, France and India.

A 1952 graduate of the main Soviet diplomatic academy, the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations, Vorontsov rose through the diplomatic ranks, from lowly assistant to the post of deputy foreign minister.

He played roles in some of the watershed events of the Cold War, from arms talks with Washington to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, where he was ambassador when Soviet troops withdrew in 1988-89.

Before his 1988 Afghan appointment, Vorontsov was ambassador to India and France, and then chief negotiator in arms-control talks with the United States.

He was appointed Soviet representative to the U.N. in 1990 and became Russia's ambassador after the Soviet Union collapsed a year later, serving at the world body until President Boris Yeltsin named him ambassador to Washington in 1994.

In 2000, he returned to the U.N. as envoy in charge of coordinating international efforts aimed at the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third-country nationals missing after the Gulf War. *