WASHINGTON — President Reagan dispatched his arms control negotiators to Geneva on Monday and chastised the Soviet Union for having "backtracked from some of the important points" on which he said agreement was reached at the Iceland summit conference.
Reagan conferred for about 20 minutes with Max M. Kampelman, his chief negotiator at the U.S.-Soviet arms control talks in Geneva, in Reagan's first visit to the White House Oval Office since his prostate surgery a week ago.
Reagan also promoted Kampelman, naming him State Department counselor, thus adding to his protocol rank. The Soviets reportedly are sending a first deputy foreign minister, Yuli M. Vorontsov, to Geneva to replace Viktor P. Karpov as senior arms control negotiator.
Signal of Greater Flexibility
The promotion of Kampelman and the assignment of Vorontsov would appear to signal greater flexibility for the leaders of the two delegations. The appointment of Vorontsov could also represent a new Soviet willingness to push ahead toward agreements in the three areas of discussion: long-range and medium-range weapons and space-based systems intended to intercept long-range missiles.
"One of the problems we had in the negotiation up until now, frankly, was that we weren't quite certain of the clout of their delegation," said a senior Administration official. "I think with Mr. Vorontsov we know the answer to that question, which is that he does have clout."
1st Formal Talks Since Iceland
Although the U.S. and Soviet delegations met informally in December, the negotiations beginning Thursday will be the first formal talks since Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev conferred in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, in October.
In a written statement, Reagan pledged to "seek every opportunity to make meaningful progress towards real arms reductions."
But his overall assessment of the status of efforts to build on the summit talks was less than optimistic.
He said that the informal talks conducted in December produced "no narrowing of differences, although limited progress was made in clarifying some points of agreement."
"The Soviets seemed more interested at times in conducting an arms control public relations campaign than in the hard give and take of the confidential negotiating process," he said.
He added: "Unfortunately, since Reykjavik, Soviet actions to move forward on arms control have not matched our own. Indeed, the Soviets sometimes seem to be moving in the other direction. For example, they have backtracked from some of the important points on which Mr. Gorbachev and I reached agreement at Reykjavik."
Tentative Agreement at Summit
At the summit conference, Reagan and Gorbachev reached tentative agreement on the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe and to negotiate sharp reductions in strategic--or long-range--bombers and ballistic missiles.
But no agreement was reached on Soviet-sought limits on space-based missile defense systems, and the United States has stepped back from a commitment to try to ban all ballistic missiles.
A senior Administration official, speaking on the condition that he not be identified, said that the Soviets are now "insisting that conventional as well as nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles be covered" by any agreement.
But another official said that this shift may have been tied to a translation error and that it was, in any case, considered "a very minor detail."
In a briefing for reporters at the White House after the Reagan meeting, another senior official made it clear that the United States is awaiting proposals from the Soviet Union.
Move Up to Soviets
"The Soviets fully understand that the next substantive move is theirs," he said.
Kampelman was accompanied to the White House by Maynard W. Glitman and Ronald F. Lehman, his two senior deputies.
As State Department counselor, a post requiring Senate confirmation, Kampelman would replace Edward J. Derwinski as a senior State Department adviser. Derwinski is being nominated for the post of undersecretary of state for security assistance programs.
Meanwhile, in Lagos, Nigeria, Secretary of State George P. Shultz told a press conference that he had decided to give Kampelman "a key role" in the State Department.
"Max Kampelman, with his brains and capabilities, will take this post at the top end of the management of the State Department and in addition will lead our (arms) negotiating team," Shultz said.
Later, the secretary of state told reporters aboard his aircraft on the flight from Lagos to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, that Kampelman will devote most of his time to arms control.
Advice to the Secretary
Shultz said Kampelman's job as counselor will consist of what the title implies, giving advice to the secretary of state.
"He's in Geneva during the rounds (of the arms control talks)," Shultz said. "But then when he is back in the United States, he will be concentrating on arms control, but he will have time for other things."
Shultz said Kampelman's new appointment is not related to reports that Karpov is being replaced as Moscow's chief arms control negotiator.
The move came as no surprise, he said, because "they (the Soviets) have seemed to be in the process of shifting Karpov for quite a while."
He said Vorontsov, Karpov's replacement, is well known in the United States and considered an able negotiator.
Shultz was asked if giving Kampelman a more significant title was intended as a signal to the Soviets that the United States is serious about arms control. He replied, "That would be fair to say."
Times staff writer Norman Kempster contributed to this story from Ivory Coast.