LONDON — A senior Soviet arms control official today said Moscow would be willing to discuss cutbacks in short-range nuclear missiles in Europe at the same time negotiations are under way to eliminate medium-range missiles.
Viktor Karpov's offer appeared aimed at reassuring Western leaders, who fear the Soviet preponderance of short-range missiles would be a threat after mid-range rockets are removed.
Karpov told a news conference: "If the talks on the lesser range weapons won't hamper reaching agreement on medium-range weapons, we are not against having talks parallel to that."
He said, however, the two sets of talks would "not have a link or be a package deal."
His expressed willingness for parallel talks went beyond a Feb. 28 statement by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who indicated talks on shorter-range missiles would follow an accord on mid-range weapons.