MOSCOW — Denis Healey, spokesman on foreign affairs for the British Labor Party, said Tuesday that the West should accept a Soviet offer to remove medium-range and shorter-range missiles from Europe.
Healey told a news conference: "We stand at an historic turning point. The striking thing is that the Soviet Union is offering to give up (military) strength that the West doesn't have."
Healey's visit to Moscow, on the heels of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's visit in March, underscores the differences on nuclear policy between her Conservative Party and Healey's Labor Party.
During her visit, Thatcher defended the policy of nuclear deterrence, saying that for 40 years it has helped to prevent war.
Healey said he regards nuclear weapons as a menacing threat to peace, and he added that the Thatcher government has refused to take a clear stand on the issue of removing missiles from Europe.
"That's not a bad issue to fight the election on," he said.
The main argument against the removal of missiles, he went on, is that it would leave Europe exposed to Soviet superiority in conventional weapons. This, he said, is a "central issue" still to be resolved.
On Monday, Healey told a group of reporters that Kremlin leaders are praying for a Labor Party victory in the general election scheduled for June 11, and some British newspapers called the remark a major political blunder.
Welcomes Soviet Support
But Healey said Tuesday that he welcomes the support of Soviet officials, since the Labor Party position on arms control is closer to the Kremlin view than to Thatcher's.
"For us to reject such an endorsement would be to almost reject the human race," he said.
Healey conferred Tuesday with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and with Anatoly F. Dobrynin, head of the International Affairs Department of the Communist Party Central Committee.
"My impression is that the (Soviet-American) negotiation on medium-range missiles is going well," Healey said. "There are potential snags to be overcome, but an agreement is likely to be reached in time to submit to the American Congress."
On the issue of shorter-range missiles, he said, the Soviet Union is trying hard to get an agreement despite opposition in some European countries.
"Compared to the alternative," he said, "the Soviet offer is the best. . . . To turn it down . . . seems perverse in the extreme."
He estimated that Soviet forces have a 9-to-1 advantage in shorter-range missiles and a 6-to-1 advantage in medium-range missiles.
On the issue of reducing strategic weapons, he said, Soviet officials indicated that only an agreement on principles could be expected for the remainder of President Reagan's term.