President Carter said yesterday that reaching a new strategic arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union may require a summit conference between him and Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev.

In an interview with college newspaper editors, the president said that "good progress" has been made in the arms negotiations and that the differences now involve "12 highly technical issues, three of four of which are highly significant."

"The time required has been much greater than we anticipated," he said. "My guess is that the negotiators will resolve most of the issues in Geneva [site of the negotiations] and that it will probably require a direct meeting or communication between myself and President Brezhnev before we can reach a final agreement."

Carter has said previously that he would prefer to meet with Brezhnev after the details of a new strategic arms accord (SALT) had been worked out, rather than negotiate the issues at the summit level.

He has also been consistently wrong in predicting when a new agreement might be reached. Last fall, for example, he said a new SALT treaty was "within sight," later narrowing this to a prediction that a new SALT accord could be completed "within a few weeks."

In response to another question, the president said he did not expect the Soviet Union to attempt to place missiles in Cuba should the SALT talks break down.

"I don't anticipate any threat from the Soviets through Cuba as a result of success or failure" (of the talks), he said.

In another development, White House officials announced that Carter will deliver a speech on U.S. defense policy March 17 at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The president will stop in North Carolina that morning en route to Savannah, Ga., where he is to board the nuclear aircraft scarrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and witness a display of naval firepower off the Georgia coast. After a St. Patrick's Day speech in Savannah the night of March 17, he is to travel to St. Simons Island, Ga., for a three-day vacation.