The Soviet Union will face a Western attack on its human rights record today at the opening of the third conference to review compliance with the 1975 Helsinki agreements on security and cooperation in Europe.
The foreign ministers of 35 countries that signed the Helsinki agreements--the United States, Canada and every country in Europe except Albania--have come to Vienna for the opening of the conference, which is expected to last at least a year.
On the fringe of the conference, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze will hold important bilateral talks Wednesday and Thursday aimed at putting momentum back into the arms control process in the wake of the summit meeting last month in Iceland.
Shultz, who will arrive Wednesday and return to Washington on Friday, will also be meeting here with the foreign ministers of the other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Previous Helsinki review conferences were held in Belgrade, in 1977-78, and in Madrid, in 1980-83. This time it looks as if the human rights issue will be even more dominant than in the past.
Ambassador Warren Zimmerman, head of the American delegation, said at a news conference Monday:
"I will give you the American objective for this conference in one word-- compliance. Additional words, or promises, or further meetings can be useful, but they cannot take the place of carrying out what has already been agreed upon. Words are not yet deeds, but we hope they will translate into deeds. That is why we see compliance above all other issues here."
Zimmerman, attacking the Soviet record on human rights, cited a substantial decline in the number of Jews who have been allowed to emigrate, the continued detention of human rights activists who tried to monitor Soviet observance of the Helsinki accords and an increase in the number of political arrests.
"We know that the Soviet Union can do better," he said, "because it has done better in the past."
Vladimir B. Lomeiko, a member of the Soviet delegation, told a separate news conference that the 10 principles adopted in Helsinki are now part of the Soviet constitution and that "we are bringing up our children on the principles of the Helsinki agreements."
'Focus of Argument'
"One could argue about the advantages of this or that system," Lomeiko went on. "The focus of argument is the human being himself, his dignity and well being, and concern with the development of humanity as well as individual cases. It is a large-scale process of increasing and broadening human rights, with the individual at the center of a complicated universe, a question of bringing forth the creative potential of the individual and recognizing his place in life."
At another news conference Monday, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights accused the Soviet Union of systematically violating human rights accords. It said conditions in Soviet prisons are worse than they were a decade ago.