BONN — President Reagan is getting general support for his "Star Wars" research program from other heads of government here for a seven-nation economic summit conference, but he is also hearing reservations about it.
The subject came up at brief, bilateral meetings Reagan had Thursday with the West German, Japanese, French and British leaders, and it will come up again for general discussion by all seven leaders at some point in the conference.
There is not likely to be any public statement of endorsement for the program, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative. It probably will be mentioned only in passing, as one of the topics discussed, in the final statement from the conference on Saturday.
'Very Positive Statement'
U.S. officials said that West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had "a very positive statement of support" for the program, as well as for the American offer to share the work.
At the same time, however, Kohl warned that a space defense program could have a "decoupling effect" on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's common defense. And he said he hopes for European cooperation and not just bilateral cooperation in the research program.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who had discussed the space defense program with Reagan at their meeting in Los Angeles early this year, again supported the research phase of the program but expressed reservations about eventual deployment of a space defense system. As for taking part in the program, he said his government has it "under study and no decision has been made."
Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, before leaving Rome for Bonn, told an interviewer:
"Italy wants a non-marginal part in the program. We aren't asking to know all the architecture of the system of space defense that could spring from the research, but we want a full part in the technical discoveries of the project. We do not intend to participate just to make screws and carpets for some spaceship."
Meanwhile, an Italian government spokesman said Craxi was given a letter from Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, expressing the Kremlin's concern over the "Star Wars" program. The letter was delivered by the Soviet ambassador to Rome just before Craxi left for Bonn, the spokesman said. He did not elaborate on its contents.
Even the French, who are skeptical of the program on strategic and practical grounds, are prepared to give Reagan their support. President Francois Mitterrand's primary reservation is that the space program is going to make it more difficult to negotiate arms control.
Mitterrand has proposed a purely European cooperative endeavor in space research for peaceful uses, called Eureka. At a meeting two weeks ago here in Bonn, European foreign and defense ministers of the Western European Union spent many hours trying unsuccessfully to agree on a common policy toward the French plan and the American offer of participation in "Star Wars" research.
Britain, which is determined to support the U.S. program and to press ahead with sharing in the research, has virtually dismissed the French proposal.
All the European governments represented here, and the Japanese as well, want to see the fine print of the American offer of participation, made a month ago by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in a letter to all NATO members, plus Israel. So far, only Norway has flatly said it is not interested in taking part in the research.
Kohl, in an earlier policy declaration, said the West German government "will set great store by ensuring that any further cooperation guarantees fair partnership and free exchange of findings; does not remain a technological one-way street; secures us as far as possible a self-contained sphere of research, and permits us to exercise influence on the overall project."
It is likely to be months before the "Star Wars" proposal is clarified to the extent that any government can submit a formal bid for a research contract.