VIENNA — Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze met for three hours Wednesday in an effort to reach a common understanding of what was said at last month's summit meeting in Iceland and to build on that meeting.
Despite a seemingly uncompromising speech by Shevardnadze earlier in the day, arms experts accompanying the two men began meeting as a working group at 10 p.m., with the suggestion that they might work through the night, officials on both sides said. Shultz and Shevardnadze are scheduled to meet again this morning to assess the work of the specialists.
The two officials are in Vienna for a conference to review progress under the 1975 Helsinki accords aimed at promoting security and cooperation between the East and West blocs. Their private meeting at the U.S. Embassy here came after they had individually addressed the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as it is formally known.
The Shultz-Shevardnadze meeting, which ended at 7 p.m., was characterized as serious by State Department spokesman Charles Redman. He said it dealt with "how to build on the full agenda that was discussed" in Iceland by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Shevardnadze, addressing the opening session of the conference, appeared to pull back some of the concessions made by the Soviets in Iceland. And he made it clear that Moscow has not ended its campaign to blame Reagan and his Strategic Defense Initiative for the failure to reach an agreement on reducing offensive nuclear weapons.
The results of Tuesday's U.S. election, which gave control of the Senate to Democrats largely hostile to Reagan's SDI, or "Star Wars" program, may have persuaded the Soviets to mark time on arms control until the new Congress makes it clear how it will deal with SDI and the defense budget in general.
No Copies of Speech
There was some indication that the election may have had an effect on Shevardnadze's speech. Normally, East European governments get advance copies of such speeches, but none were provided Wednesday, according to an East Bloc diplomat.
"I believe parts were rewritten to reflect Soviet views on the election outcome," the diplomat said. "I think that now we will have no new Soviet arms proposal this year, but I am just guessing."
In his address, Shevardnadze used words like immoral to describe Reagan Administration accounts of the Iceland meeting. He complained about a "battle of expulsions to suit one's election strategy or to placate hawkish friends," referring to the recent expulsion of diplomats from Washington and Moscow, and charged that the U.S. expulsions were politically motivated.
"This is dishonest political gamesmanship," he said of the U.S. expulsion orders, which removed 80 diplomats from the Soviet missions in Washington, San Francisco and the United Nations.
Shevardnadze did not specifically criticize Reagan, but he offered only faint praise to the President for proposing in Iceland to eliminate all nuclear weapons in 10 years, a shorter period than the Soviets had proposed a year earlier.
In recapitulating what went on in Iceland, Shevardnadze cited fewer points of agreement than Washington has mentioned in its accounts. And he did little to dispel confusion over whether the various issues, dealing with long-range and intermediate-range missiles and space defense, could be negotiated and concluded separately.
Unless the question of SDI and its impact is resolved, he said, "no solution is possible to any of the problems in the package as it now stands, whether of strategic arms or of medium-range missiles."
"Let me emphasize," he went on, "this is not a package of conditions. This is a package of compromises, and it has to be considered in such a context."
Previously, some Kremlin officials had said that the issue of intermediate-range missiles could be resolved separately from space defense. But Wednesday, in an apparent effort to get Europeans to put pressure on Reagan for concessions on SDI, Shevardnadze emphasized that his government is definitely linking the two issues.
Shevardnadze listed what he said were points of mutual understanding, beginning with Reagan's agreement at Reykjavik to eliminate "all nuclear weapons," down to battlefield devices, in two phases spread over 10 years.
"Equally specific," he said, was the top leaders' agreement to "reduce by 50% all legs of the nuclear triad. This also applied to Soviet heavy missiles."
The so-called triad consists of bombers, submarines and long-range land-based missiles. The Soviet land-based missiles, considered particularly threatening, carry 10 or more warheads each.
Shevardnadze's formulation could mean that the Soviets again want to reduce each leg of the triad by 50% across the board, a position the United States opposes. According to U.S. officials, Gorbachev gave up on this at Iceland in favor of a U.S. approach.