WASHINGTON — The Reagan Administration said Tuesday that the Soviet Union apparently decided to allow several prominent Jewish dissidents to emigrate as a gesture to soften criticism of Moscow's human rights record before Secretary of State George P. Shultz's meeting next week with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman described as "welcome . . . (but) long overdue," the Soviet announcement Monday that Josef Begun and other Jewish activists will be permitted to leave the country after more than a decade of rejections. But he said the Soviets continue to violate international human rights accords.
"During the past several months, there has been some improvement in the Soviet human rights performance," Redman said, "but much more progress must be achieved before the Soviets will be in compliance with their international obligations" such as the human rights accords adopted by the European security conference in Helsinki in 1975.
Redman said the Soviet announcement that Begun, Viktor Brailovsky, Semyon Yantovski, Lev Sud and their family members will be allowed to leave "fits a pattern of high-profile public gestures which the Soviet government often makes prior to a high-level meeting."
Shultz and Shevardnadze are scheduled to begin a three-day meeting next Tuesday in Washington. It will be the first U.S.-Soviet discussion at the foreign-minister level since April and is expected to set the stage for a summit meeting later this year between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Shultz plans to raise the question of the Soviet human rights record along with arms control, bilateral issues and regional issues in his talks with Shevardnadze.
In a joint interview with the Associated Press and United Press International, Shultz said Tuesday that he will urge Moscow to establish a "more humane and understandable" system for handling requests for emigration.
"We're looking to see if there aren't some procedures that could be worked through that would make this process work better," Shultz said.
Shultz did not say how the system could be improved. Redman said the United States wants Moscow to publish more specific guidelines for handling requests for emigration.
"One doesn't really know why these people have been selected, when there are lots of other people as well who would seem to be in similar circumstances," Redman said. "We would like to understand and know what procedures are being applied in determining how these various cases are being resolved."
Redman's comments came as five more Soviet Jews, who had long been denied permission to emigrate, were told they could go free, according to news service reports from Moscow.
Notified by Mail
Vladimir Slepak, a refusenik who is waging his own 17-year fight for an exit visit, told the Associated Press that the five received telephone calls from the Soviet visa office informing them they will be notified by mail when they can obtain their exit papers.
He said that four Jews from Moscow--Valery Lerner, Boris and Emma Lanzman and Boris Kun--and Yevgenia Palanker, a woman from Yerevan, Armenia, were told they will be allowed to leave.
Since last April, Jewish emigration has averaged about 800 a month, far above the 1986 pace when 914 persons were allowed to leave during the entire year, Redman said. But he said it falls far short of the average of more than 2,000 a month during the 1970s.
The Soviets allowed scientist Matwey Finkel and his American wife, Susan Graham, to leave for the United States last Saturday after a nine-year battle. But Redman said 13 other Soviet citizens so far have been refused permission to join spouses or fiancees in the United States.
"Soviet performance in resolving separated-spouse and blocked-marriage cases has been very disappointing," Redman said.