President Carter said yesterday that the State Department spoke in support of Soviet dissident Andrei D. Sakhrov last week without checking with him first, but that the statement "reflected my attitude."
He told reporters that neither he nor Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance knew that a State Department spokeman intended to issue a statement critical of the Soviet Union, which brought a complaint from Soviet Union, which brought a complaint from Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin.
Speaking during a helicopter flight to Washington from Pittsburgh, where he toured areas hard hit by the severe cold and shortage of natural gas, the President decraled: "What he (the State Department spokesman) said was my attitude."
But he added: "Perhaps it should have been said by myself or by Secretary Vance."
The President suggested, without saying so specifically, that he preferred to handle the issue of Soviet dissidents and human rights through diplomatic channels.
The statement from the State Department was issued on Thursday by the spokesman, Fred Erick Z. Brown.
The president disclosed he would be meeting Dobrynin at the White House this week. He did not say if he would raise the Sakharov affair and the Soviet Union's complaint, which is reported to be a protest about alleged U.S. interference with Soviet internal affairs.
However, the current controversy came at a time when the administration was waiting for a reply to its proposal that Vance go to Moscow in late March in an effort to advance the stalled strategic arms limitation talks.
The other main issue the President discussed concerned U.S. negotiations with Panama over the Panama Canal.
Carter said his National Security Council had made "firm recommendations" to him about the negotiations and that Vance would have an announcement to make about them at a press conference he has scheculed for today.
In speaking about the State Department's spokesmaan Sakharov, the better for him, not subordinates, to make remarks that might offend other countries.
He said he is not convinced that such statements by subordinates would, in fact, do much to help Sakharov to overcome his problems.
The State Department statement had cautimned Moscow after he was warned he was risking prosecution if he kept up "slanderous activities."
Asked if it would not be better for the Soviet Union to accept critical remarks from a low-level official rather "It depends on the relationship I have with (Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev . . . and the understanding that exists in the Soviet Union about our own deep commitment to human rights, and our inclination to be at peace with the Soviet Union, on the other hand."
Carter confirmed that he had received a letter from Sakharov, which urged him to defend nonvioled struggles for justice and rights, but said he did not know if he would answer the Soviet dissident directly.
The President's remarks were the latest development in a diplomatic controversy that began last Wednesday when the State Department admonished Czechoslovakia for reportedly harassing a group of 300 dissidents who called on the government to respect the 1975 Helsinki accords on human rights.
Then, on Thursday, State issued its statement on Sakharov. When the called Vance to protest. Vance - statement became public, Dobrynin though caugh by surprise since he had not seen the statement, and though he reportedly later rebuked subordinates for issuing it without clearing it - was said to have stood by it.
On Saturday.Tass, the Soviet news agency, criticized the State Department for defending the "renegade" Sakharov, and added that". . . some people in Washington have a very strong anti-Soviet itch and desire to [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
The subject is certain to be raised today at Vance's first press conference, where he will he will have a chance to clarify the U.S. position.