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Soviets Stall on Arms, Shultz Talks, U.S. Says

July 11, 1987|NORMAN KEMPSTER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Administration, accusing the Soviet Union of refusing to bargain "seriously and constructively" in the Geneva arms control talks, said Friday that Moscow has refused to set a date for a long-expected high-level meeting to make arrangements for the next summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman, noting that the United States has suggested a number of dates for a meeting between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, said the Soviets have rejected them all. Earlier, U.S. officials had hoped that the meeting could be held before the end of this month, but that now seems to be out of the question.

"For our part, the welcome mat is out," Redman said. "But they don't seem to be ready to accept any dates."

'Lack of Willingness'

Moreover, he said, the Soviet Union has demonstrated "a lack of willingness to engage seriously and constructively in the negotiating process" during the last several weeks at the arms control talks.

Redman talked to reporters after Shultz failed to break the impasse in an hourlong meeting with Soviet Ambassador Yuri V. Dubinin.

It was the most pessimistic assessment by a senior American official since April, when Shultz visited Moscow for meetings with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze that seemed at the time to virtually guarantee eventual agreement on a treaty to remove intermediate- and short-range nuclear weapons from Europe.

Nevertheless, a State Department official, who declined to be identified by name, said that U.S.-Soviet relations are not nearly as chilly today as they were a little less than a year ago.

Accusations of Spying

At that time, relations were damaged by U.S. accusations that Soviet diplomats at the United Nations were engaged in spying and the Soviet arrest of U.S. journalist Nicholas Daniloff on what the U.S. government termed "trumped-up" espionage charges. Despite those tensions, Reagan and Gorbachev held their second summit in Reykjavik in October.

Redman declined to go into the specifics of Soviet foot-dragging at the arms control talks. But, in answering a question, he said the Soviet delegation at Geneva officially demanded removal of the U.S.-controlled nuclear warheads for 72 aging Pershing 1A short-range missiles owned by the West German government.

Moscow maintains that the warheads must be included in any agreement to remove short-range missiles from Europe, but Washington insists that the West German missiles are beyond the scope of the U.S.-Soviet negotiations.

Earlier, U.S. officials said the Soviets had not made an issue of the Pershing 1As at Geneva, although Soviet spokesmen had raised the issue in public statements.

The Soviet insistence on removal of the warheads could become a major sticking point because, as Redman said, "our position is crystal clear on that--it is not a subject for negotiation at Geneva."

Reagan and Gorbachev, who met in 1985 in Geneva and in 1986 in Reykjavik, have tentatively agreed to hold their next meeting in Washington. Both sides have said they expect Reagan and Gorbachev to wait until they are ready to sign an agreement eliminating intermediate-range nuclear forces from Europe before holding their next summit.

Under the usual procedure, the agenda for a Reagan-Gorbachev meeting must be thrashed out during preliminary talks between Shultz and Shevardnadze. By refusing to agree to a date for the foreign ministers' meeting, Moscow apparently is indicating that arms control progress does not yet justify preparations for a summit.

'Double-Zero' Plan

A month ago, after NATO foreign ministers formally endorsed the "double-zero" plan to ban from Europe both the short- and medium-range missiles that make up the intermediate-range nuclear forces category, U.S. officials anticipated a Shultz-Shevardnadze session in mid-July, followed by a Reagan-Gorbachev summit in the early fall. The double-zero plan was first proposed by Gorbachev in his April meeting with Shultz, and the NATO approval appeared to eliminate one of the last major roadblocks.

Now, however, it seems unlikely that Shultz and Shevardnadze will meet before September. Both sides have made it clear they are reluctant to meet in Washington during August when the heat is oppressive and many senior government officials are on vacation.

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