WASHINGTON — President Reagan today declared that "the climate is now receptive" for the superpowers to reach an historic agreement on the global elimination of medium- and short-range nuclear missiles.
Commenting on U.S. proposals presented hours earlier in Geneva, Reagan said movement over the last week has removed a major "stumbling block" to an agreement regarded as the key to another superpower summit.
At the same time, he indicated that those proposals meet Soviet concerns by committing the United States not to convert missiles that would be covered by such an agreement into other weapons outside its scope.
"Our goal, as you can see, is not arms control but arms reductions," he said in remarks before a scientific conference. "And despite the skepticism when we first announced these plans, we are moving in that direction."
In Geneva, U.S. arms negotiators presented their Soviet counterparts with new proposals that embrace the "double-zero" formula accepted last week by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in a sharp change of position for the Kremlin.
One Key Obstacle
While at least one key obstacle--the status of West German Pershing 1-A missiles--remains, Reagan and his aides, faced with recent public relations gains by Gorbachev, were sanguine about prospects for the future.
"There is still much to do in Geneva," Reagan said, "but I'm heartened that the climate is now receptive to an historic proposal of this type."
To give added impetus to the renewed push for an agreement, which followed weeks of inaction, Fitzwater confirmed that Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze will meet in Washington in September. (Story, Page 8.)
The talks will be held in Washington the week before the U.N. General Assembly opens, and Fitzwater would not say whether Shevardnadze will meet with Reagan.
U.S. officials repeated today their rejection of Soviet demands that 72 West German Pershing 1-A missiles--their nuclear warheads under U.S. control--be scrapped along with the American and Soviet missiles.