President Reagan, despite the collapse of arms control negotiations at the weekend summit in Iceland, said Monday that he and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev made progress on "a broad range of topics" and were "closer than ever before to agreements that could lead to a safer world without nuclear weapons."
In a televised address from the Oval Office, Reagan used conciliatory tones to discuss what proved in Iceland to be his irreconcilable differences with Gorbachev over the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based missile defense system popularly known as "Star Wars."
The President said that his invitation to the Soviet leader to attend a summit in Washington this year still stands. American officials had hoped that a date for a Washington summit might be set at the Reykjavik summit, but the matter was never discussed there.
Although "Star Wars" blocked a final accord, the U.S. and Soviet leaders reached a series of tentative agreements for drastic reductions in offensive nuclear weapons. Reagan said that those agreements remain "on the table" in Geneva, where U.S. and Soviet negotiators have been seeking an arms control agreement for nearly two years.
"They won't go away," he said. "We are ready to pick up where we left off. Our negotiators are heading back to Geneva, and we are prepared to go forward whenever and wherever the Soviets are ready. So, there is reason--good reason--for hope."
However, Reagan, who ended the talks after Gorbachev insisted that the United States abandon all but laboratory research into "Star Wars" technology for 10 years, said he could not promise "great breakthroughs or momentous treaty signings."
"We will not abandon the guiding principle we took to Reykjavik," he declared. "We prefer no agreement than to bring home a bad agreement to the United States."
The President reported that he told Gorbachev he had pledged to the American people that he would not trade away his Strategic Defense Initiative. "There was no way I could tell our people their government would not protect them against nuclear destruction," he said.
Reagan's generally upbeat report on the summit stood in stark contrast to the bleak picture painted by Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who told a press conference immediately after talks broke off Sunday that "we are all deeply disappointed at this outcome."
As Administration officials returned from Reykjavik, they promptly launched a public relations blitz to put the best possible face on the summit's outcome.
White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan and national security adviser John M. Poindexter began a heavy schedule of television and newspaper interviews, and Regan, Poindexter and the President himself will brief columnists and commentators today at the White House.
Refusal to Budge
Poindexter, at a White House news conference Monday, disclosed that it was Reagan who gathered up his papers and ended the summit talks after Gorbachev refused to budge on his refusal to agree to reductions in offensive arms--and their eventual elimination--unless the United States yielded on SDI.
In his televised address, Reagan said he could not risk sacrificing his space-based defense. "SDI," he said, "is America's insurance policy that the Soviet Union would keep the commitments made at Reykjavik."
Nevertheless, Reagan insisted, "I am ultimately hopeful about the prospects for progress at the summit and for world peace and freedom."
The United States during his presidency has increased its military might, Reagan said, and now negotiates from a position of strength. "For that reason," he said, "we have it within our grasp to move speedily with the Soviets toward even more breakthroughs."
No Word on New Summit
But he said Gorbachev gave no indication at Reykjavik of whether he plans to travel to the United States for a summit later this year, as the two leaders had agreed at their first meeting last November in Geneva.
"I repeat tonight that our invitation stands and that we continue to believe additional meetings would be useful. But that's a decision the Soviets must make."
Reagan disclosed that while he and Gorbachev discussed human rights and such regional conflicts as those in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua and Cambodia, "by their choice the main subject was arms control."
They discussed the placement of medium-range missiles in Europe and Asia and "seemed to be in agreement they could be drastically reduced," he said. "Both sides seemed willing to find a way to reduce even to zero the strategic (long-range) ballistic missiles we have aimed at each other. This then brought up the subject of SDI."
The President said he proposed that the United States continue its present research on the missile defense system with the provision that, when the final stages of testing were at hand, a treaty would be signed with the Soviets permitting them to observe such tests.
"And if the program was practical," Reagan said, "we would both eliminate our offensive missiles and then we would share the benefits of advanced defenses."
While they seemed to be making progress, Reagan said, Gorbachev began registering opposition to SDI and asked for a 10-year delay in the development of SDI technology.
The Soviet leader wanted "wording that in effect would have kept us from developing the SDI for the entire 10 years," Reagan said. "In effect, he was killing SDI, and unless I agreed, all that work toward eliminating nuclear weapons would go down the drain--canceled."
'Star Wars' the Key
The prospect of "Star Wars" was what brought the Soviets to the bargaining table in the first place, Reagan contended, and "Star Wars" is "the key to a world without nuclear weapons."
Still optimistic about U.S.-Soviet relations, Reagan added, "The door is open, and the opportunity to begin eliminating the nuclear threat is within reach."
"So you can see we made progress in Iceland," he declared.
Reagan text Page 5, other stories Pages 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11.