WASHINGTON — Soviet Embassy officials here confirmed Friday that Moscow has raised new concerns about West Germany's 72 Pershing 1-A missiles--an aspect of the pending arms control agreement between the superpowers that U.S. officials believed had been resolved.
Focusing on the withdrawal timetable for the German weapons, Soviet negotiators have proposed at the arms control talks in Geneva that the Soviet Union be allowed to retain some of their intermediate-range missiles until the Bonn government dismantles the Pershings and the United States withdraws their American-controlled nuclear warheads, Soviet Embassy Counselor Sergei Chuvakin said at a press conference.
U.S. negotiators immediately rejected the proposal and accused the Soviets of reneging on an agreement last month that raised the prospects for a new accord to eliminate both nation's intermediate-range missiles.
Whether the new Soviet move will delay completion of the intermediate-range missile pact, which would cover all U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,000 miles, is not clear.
Problem 'Not Serious'
But Chuvakin said he believes that the issue is "not a serious problem" and that it can be resolved by negotiators at Geneva within the next two weeks. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater also called the new Pershing dispute "not serious in terms of scuttling the whole agreement."
Prospects "are very promising for a treaty and a summit," he added.
If it is not resolved at the Geneva talks, the issue could be considered by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet officials when Shultz visits Moscow on Oct. 22-23. However, both sides had wanted at that meeting to look beyond such details--to the summit and even to a separate accord to cut strategic nuclear arms by half.
U.S. and Soviet negotiators are hoping to work out the intermediate-range missile agreement by late November, when President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev are expected to sign it formally at a summit meeting here.
U.S. officials offered several possible explanations for the new Soviet move. One was that it is an attempt to gain negotiating leverage that can be traded later for a U.S. concession, perhaps on verification of compliance with the accord. Another, according to one source, is that Moscow is just "pounding away again" at "programs of cooperation" between the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies on nuclear weapons systems.
The United States has refused as a matter of principle to negotiate with the Soviets about weapons systems of an allied nation, fearing that it would raise doubts among other allies about their "cooperative programs" with the United States.
Last month, Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, meeting in Washington, appeared to compromise on the Soviet demand for the removal of the West German Pershings. They cited a statement by West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in which he declared that, when the United States and Soviet Union eliminated their missiles, the Germans would dismantle their Pershings.
Shultz said that, when the Pershings are dismantled, that program of cooperation would end and the U.S. warheads would be returned to the United States. This arrangement did not require any mention of the German Pershing missiles in the U.S.-Soviet medium-range missile agreement.
But Chuvakin said Friday that only the disposition of U.S. warheads was solved in September. The timing for dismantling the missiles was not settled, he said.
He said that the Soviets now are discussing the matter in negotiations over the pace at which the U.S. and Soviet missiles would be eliminated.
"As to the timetable of withdrawal of the shorter-range missiles, including the Pershing 1-A," said Chuvakin, "that is an issue under consideration (at Geneva) right now."
According to U.S. officials, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said at the United Nations recently that the Pershing missiles would be removed "by the time" the U.S. and Soviet missiles are eliminated. That new phrasing suggests that the Bonn government is amenable to meeting the Soviet concern outside of the formal U.S.-Soviet treaty on intermediate-range missiles.