U.S. and Soviet arms control officials agreed Thursday to begin separate negotiations next week on limiting space weapons, strategic arms and medium-range missiles.
The move was in line with an agreement by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko last January to hold separate, concurrent negotiations on the three arms systems. The Soviets, however, have put great stress on the interrelationship of the three sets of talks, while the U.S. has insisted that developments in one set should not interfere with either of the other two.
Thursday's decision came at a two-hour meeting at the U.S. delegation building attended by the three senior negotiators for each side, the fourth session since the talks began March 12.
"We have agreed that negotiating groups will begin their work on Tuesday, March 26," a statement from the U.S. delegation said.
Chief Soviet delegate Viktor P. Karpov, asked after Thursday's meeting if the negotiations are going well, shrugged and said, "We're talking. That's important."
A U.S. spokesman said the details of the dates and location of the three-pronged talks will be worked out by lower-level officials before the next working session. Delegation heads will consult their capitals during the four-day recess.
In previous separate sets of negotiations in Geneva on medium-range and long-range weapons, the two teams met twice weekly, alternating between the Soviet U.N. Mission and the office of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
The times and places of the meeting of new negotiating groups will still have to be worked out, the spokesman said, because there are only two conference rooms and three teams.
An Internal Affair
Asked for comment on this week's Senate vote approving production of 21 more MX strategic missiles, Karpov said:
"That's U.S. internal affairs. I discuss my affairs with the delegation of the United States," and he pointed toward the top floor of the building, where the U.S. team was waiting for the Soviet delegation. He walked away without answering other questions.
However, the Soviet news agency Tass criticized the Senate move, saying Washington was not serious about arms control. It accused President Reagan on Wednesday of "demagoguery and militarist ambitions" in campaigning for approval of the MX program in the Senate.
Reagan had argued that rejection of the program, which still needs approval of the House, would signal a "collapse of American resolve" at the Geneva talks.
Max M. Kampelman, head of the U.S. delegation, is in charge of space weapons, while former Sen. John Tower will handle strategic weapons and Maynard W. Glitman will head talks on medium-range missiles next week.
For the Soviets, Karpov heads the long-range talks, Yuli A. Kvitsinsky will negotiate space weapons and Alexei A. Obukhov will head the Soviet team on medium-range missiles.