UNITED NATIONS — Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, in his first speech to the United Nations, called Tuesday for an international "Star Peace" program to give all nations a share of the benefits of space research and to prevent the militarization of outer space.
"To counter the sinister plans of 'Star Wars,' the U.S.S.R. is putting before the international community a concept of 'Star Peace,' " Shevardnadze said in a reference to President Reagan's research program on a space-based missile defense.
The foreign minister did not include any details of his plan in a generally low-key speech that reiterated traditional Soviet criticism of the United States but avoided some of the harsh Cold War rhetoric that characterized his predecessor, Andrei A. Gromyko.
However, aides said later that the Soviet Union wants an international conference to meet before the end of 1987 to establish international rules for the peaceful uses of space.
Vladimir F. Petrovsky, a member of the Soviet U.N. delegation, said the plan calls for space exploration by crews of mixed nationalities and is intended to give Third World countries access to the results of space exploration. But this is possible, he said, only if the United States abandons its "Star Wars" program.
The Soviets hinted at such a plan last month when they proposed a U.N. debate on the peaceful uses of space. Shevardnadze, in emphasizing the plan, staked out a position sure to be popular at the United Nations, where most member states lack the economic and technological resources to adopt space programs of their own.
U.S. Cites Cooperation
State Department spokesman Charles Redman later said that the United States "has long been a major exponent of peaceful cooperation in space. . . . We see no linkage between the Soviet proposal of peaceful cooperation and research into the possibility of effective strategic defenses."
Secretary of State George P. Shultz listened impassively to an English translation through earphones while Shevardnadze spoke.
Shultz and Shevardnadze are scheduled to confer today in New York, and the Soviet foreign minister is scheduled to meet Reagan at the White House on Friday. The main purpose of both meetings is to complete planning for Reagan's summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Geneva in November.
Shevardnadze has been widely reported to be planning to propose to Reagan an arms control package providing deep cuts of 30% to 40% in offensive nuclear weapons in exchange for cancellation of the "Star Wars" program, formally known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.
Speaking to reporters in Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday, Reagan said that the United States wants to eliminate offensive nuclear weapons entirely. "We are perfectly prepared to take whatever mutual reductions we can get with the idea of eventually getting there to zero," he said.
However, Reagan gave no hint that he is ready to link cuts in offensive weapons to restrictions on "Star Wars" research. He has said that the program will not be traded away in the arms control talks.
Shevardnadze, however, did not tip his hand in his U.N. speech. He disposed of a possible offensive-defensive trade-off in two sentences:
"We believe that agreement to ban space strike weapons and to effect truly radical reductions in nuclear arms would today have the most positive effect. Such an agreement can bring about a turn for the better in the entire course of world events, avert the threat of nuclear catastrophe and open up for the peoples the prospect of a world free from fear for tomorrow." He gave no hint of any details.
Shevardnadze stressed that the Soviet Union believes that it would be threatened if the United States produced an effective missile defense system.
Responding to the speech on behalf of the State Department, Redman said: "In terms of the problems and the issues, there was in fact no discernible change in the Soviet position" between Gromyko's hard-line U.N. speech last year and the one Shevardnadze delivered Tuesday.
A U.S. official added later, "You can take tone and style where you will--it does not substitute for policy."