President Carter said today that he is encouraged by "private messages" he has received from Soviet Premier Leonid I. Brezhnev since the rejection of U.S. strategic arms limitation proposals last week in Moscow.
Carter also said the United States is reassessing its proposal to reduce the nuclear arms arsenal built up by each of the two superpowers. The Soviet Union rejcted that proposal as not worth discussing during a three day visit by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance to the Soviet capital.
"If during this re-analysis we show that there's any inequity there we would be very eager to change it," Carter said. But he added he still believes the U.S. proposals were "fair and equitable."
In Washington, it was learned that the message from Brezhnev to Carter was delivered on Thursday to Vance by Soviet Ambassador Antoliy F. Dobrynin.
Officials declined, as usual, to disclose the contents of Brezhnev's private letter to the President. It was described by an informed source, however, as one of the "constructive" evidences of Soviet desire to keep open the channel of communication with the Carter administration, in the wake of Brezhnev's rejection on March 30 of U.S. arms control proposals.
The Soviet position continues to be, it was learned, that any new U.S. Soviet arms control accord should begin with the nuclear force levels projected at Vladivostok in 1974 by Brehneu and President Ford President Carter is pressing for major reductions in those force levels.
In an effort to break this stalemate which brought Vance's mission to Moscow to a halt last week, Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andre A. Gromyko now plan to meet in Geneva, in May, to discuss nuclear forces and other subjects. Dates now being considered for that meeting, it was learned, are between about May 20 and May 24, to be preceded by preparatory American-Soviet discussions, which the United States suggested.
Carter maintained that "There was a good deal of progress made" in Moscow.
He said that if one reads the entire text of an unusual press conference called by Gromyko to denounce the U.S. offer, "it was encouraging and the private messages that I have had from Mr. Brezhnev have also been encouraging."
The President said, "There is a continual means by which I can communicate with Mr. Brezhnev, even through normal diplomatic sources or others, and it's a routine sort of exchange, nothing dramatic or startling. No new concepts have been proposed. Just an assurance that the Soviet leadership is as determined as I am to continue with the efforts."
He did not elaborate on when or how or how many times he has communicated with the Soviet leader.
Carter made the assessment while he stood on a runway of this air base near Atlanta answering reporters' questions. A small crowd of perhaps 200, who had been waiting under warm, sunny skies for him to arrive, applauded when he finished.
The President touched on a number of other issues in the 15-minute question-and-answer session, including:
He said he believes "all of the nations that were in such a dominant position in the last number of generations have obviously been guilty of racism, but I certainly wouldn't think the British were any more guilty than we. I think we've all overcome that fact of our society in a very constructive way, and I don't believe that Great Britain deserves any special criticism."
This was a reference to a remark made by U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young earlier this week about racism in Britain, for which Young has apologized.
The President said Young "has explained to the British what he meant" when he singled Great Britain out for a special criticism on the racism issue, that "the British government considers it to be an end to the matter and so do I."
He believes the Palestinian people "must be represented . . . in some fashion" at any Middle East peace talks. "Whether that would be done by them directly or by a surrogate . . . hasn't been evolved."
Carter said he has an "unwavering opinion that the Soviets want a resolution of nuclear arms control the same as we do."
The progress at the recent Moscow talks included "study committees . . . set up to explore new ideas that had never before been put on the SALT negotiating table," he said.
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When he finished the President boarded a helicopter, which took him, Mrs. Carter and daughter Amy to the north Georgia town of Calhoun, about 60 miles away, to spend Easter weekend with his son Jack, a lawyer.