MOSCOW — Secretary of State George P. Shultz said today that an agreement eliminating superpower medium-range missiles from Europe and likely leading to a summit in Washington is "close at hand."
But Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze told reporters that hard work remains before the superpowers could sign such an agreement.
Shultz held a news conference in Moscow after three days of talks with Mikhail S. Gorbachev and other top Kremlin officials here.
"I think we made quite a lot of progress and perhaps we can see prospects, with hard negotiations ahead, but prospects close at hand of reaching agreement in that area," Shultz said.
"Very considerable headway has been made and we should be able to work out agreement in this field with hard work and creative efforts."
Despite a new proposal made Tuesday by Gorbachev, Shultz said the issue of Soviet SS-12 and SS-23 short-range missiles remains the sticking point for an agreement.
Shultz said he will be carrying Gorbachev's new proposals with him to a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels on Thursday.
Shultz and Shevardnadze met for several hours before the secretary of state addressed reporters, and afterward the Soviet foreign minister offered an upbeat assessment of the possibility of another superpower summit.
Shevardnadze said there was a "rather good prospect" of a Washington summit between President Reagan and Gorbachev. Asked what was needed, he said, "To tuck up our sleeves and work."
Gorbachev offered Tuesday to negotiate limits on U.S. "Star Wars" research and to combine constraints on short-range missiles with eliminating medium-range rockets from Europe.
Sticks to Reykjavik Formula
Shultz said the Soviet leader's proposal sticks to the formula of the Reykjavik summit by allowing the Soviet Union 100 medium-range warheads in Asia and the United States 100 on its territory.
But he added the Soviets would be willing to include in the agreement the removal of their shorter-range missiles from Czechoslovakia and East Germany.
The United States has no comparable missiles, and the Western alliance has demanded that those missiles be considered in any agreement on medium-range missiles. The Soviet Union previously insisted that they be considered separately.
Shultz said the goal of negotiations on the shorter-range rockets would be to eliminate them within a year.
He declined to assess the Soviet offer, saying it required discussion with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.
'Need to Nail Down' Subject
"We have to nail down the short-range subject. We made quite a lot of progress but we still have to do that," he said.
Shultz also said the United States offered a compromise on strategic weapons during the talks in Moscow.
He said he proposed to the Soviets an agreement to abide by the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty for another seven years, during which the two sides would reduce their strategic nuclear missiles by 50%.
In Iceland, the Soviets proposed an agreement to abide by the treaty for 10 years tied to a 50% reduction over five years. The United States offered not to deploy an AMB system for five years.
There was no indication how the U.S. proposal was received by the Soviets.