REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Steingrimur Hermannsson, the prime minister, believes Iceland will surely benefit in worldwide attention and understanding for hosting the summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
"Hopefully," he told a news conference Friday, "no one will ever ask me again if we live in igloos."
Asked, however, what he thought of news stories that described Icelanders as believers in ghosts and elves, the prime minister replied: "As far as the ghosts and elves, I have never met one, but who can say that they don't exist? My mother always believed in them and had good friends among them. And who am I to say that she was wrong?"
Hermannsson, 58, an engineer with a master's degree from the California Institute of Technology, said he is not sure what the summit will cost Iceland, an island of only 240,000 people, one-tenth of 1% of the population of the United States.
"We do not know," he said. "We have told the superpowers that we expect them to pay, and they have agreed. But it is obvious we cannot bill them for everything. It may cost us 10 million kronur ($250,000) or 20 million kronur ($500,000).
As prime minister of one of the world's smallest nations, Hermannsson does not travel around his capital in great splendor.
A West German correspondent, rushing toward the Icelandic television station studios Friday morning for Hermannsson's news conference, stopped to ask the way.
An Icelander told the correspondent just to follow along, for he was going in the same direction. The helpful Icelander was the prime minister.
During a news conference, Rozanne L. Ridgway, an assistant secretary of state, was asked a pointed question by a journalist who reminded her of the recent news in Washington about a disinformation campaign conducted by the Reagan Administration against the government of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.
"Can you assure us you're not disinforming us today?" the journalist said.
Replied Ridgway: "I've been in this business for 30 years, and I don't have to answer questions like that."
Nicholas Daniloff, the American correspondent recently released by the Soviet Union, is covering the summit conference for his newsmagazine, U.S. News & World report, and has become as much of a celebrity as a journalist.
As he entered the press center for Ridgway's news conference, photographers crowded near him, asking him to enter the building slowly and in a straight path so they could take his photograph with ease. Daniloff obliged.
An American reporter staying in the Saga Hotel, headquarters for the Soviet delegation, found a telephone in his room with the words "open line" written on it in Russian.
When he picked up the receiver, a voice asked in Russian, "Which number do you want in Moscow?" Taking no chances about upsetting the Soviet delegation, the reporter gently put the phone back on the hook.
Everyone knows that someone made a mistake in scheduling Gorbachev's arrival in Iceland at the same time that the Icelandic government was opening its parliamentary session. But whose mistake was it? Said a Moscow official: "If the (Soviet) ambassador (to Iceland) is around tomorrow, you will know that it wasn't his fault."
Gorbachev chose to stay on a Soviet ship, the ferry boat Georg Ots, rather than the Baltika, a ship that was used by the late Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev on some foreign trips.
"Maybe Gorbachev thought the boat was haunted," said a Soviet official.
"By Khrushchev?" asked a reporter.
"I didn't say that," replied the official, refusing to name the man who has become an unmentionable in Soviet society since he was deposed in 1964.