WASHINGTON — President Reagan, defending a tentative agreement with the Soviet Union to eliminate medium-range nuclear missiles, said Saturday that the United States is "in no rush" and that he will not sign the arms treaty until "a number of essential details" have been worked out.
In his weekly radio address, the President said that Secretary of State George P. Shultz will press hard to conclude the pact in a Moscow visit Thursday and Friday, following up on his current diplomatic swing through the Middle East. Reagan said, however, that the Soviet Union "will have to show far more flexibility than it has up to now" before an agreement is signed.
Shultz's Moscow stop, in which he will meet with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, is regarded by some observers as critical to carrying out plans for a summit meeting in Washington before the end of the year at which Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev would sign the nuclear arms treaty.
"We are hopeful" of reaching the agreement, the President said, "but we're in no rush. There is no politically imposed deadline. It has to be done right or not at all."
Reagan cited as one roadblock the problem of monitoring compliance with the treaty, which would require the Soviet Union to dismantle and not replace about 700 nuclear-tipped missiles and their launchers in Europe and along the Soviet-Chinese border.
Reagan said that U.S. negotiators have proposed the strictest verification regimen in arms negotiation history. However, one serious difficulty in agreeing with the Soviets on verification terms is the reluctance of U.S. officials to grant the Soviets the same intimate view of American defense facilities that the United States once demanded of the Soviet Union.
The President also threw a barb at congressional efforts to force him to abide by the second--unratified--strategic arms limitation treaty and by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's limits on anti-missile weapon tests as they are generally understood.
Reagan has accused the Soviet Union of violating both treaties, and the Defense Department regards the ABM pact's limits as potential hurdles to development of the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based defense against nuclear missiles commonly known as "Star Wars."
Democrats, led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), have attached riders to legislation that essentially would force the White House to abide by the agreements. In his talk, Reagan called those amendments "attempts to tie our hands or even enact Soviet negotiating positions into American law," and he said he would veto any bills containing the riders.
The provisions "don't help us at the bargaining table, and they undermine chances of achieving mutual arms reduction," Reagan charged.
In other matters, Reagan said that Shultz will seek in Moscow to discuss a range of regional disputes, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Iran-Iraq War, the Central America peace plan and Soviet military roles in conflicts in Afghanistan and Angola.