Through an error in transcription, an article in yesterday's Washington Post about Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, mentioned U.S. initiatives "in Rhodesia and Bolivia." The reference should have been to U.S. initiatives in Rhodesia and Namibia.

Despite the controversy continually swirling around Andrew Young and his public utterances, U.N. diplomats from all parts of the political and geographic spectra seem to agree that, on balance, the U.S. ambassador has been a positive force for American interests at the United Nations.

These views tend to bolster the arguments advanced by American officials and Young himself in response to domestic critics who charge that Young is unfit to be U.N. ambassador.

"Talk to the people here at the U.S.," Young said on a panel show aired by the Public Broadcasting Service. "Whether it's European, or African, or Arabs, or Latin American, or Asians, the U.S. Mission has never had as good a relationship with all of the nations [in] the U.N. system as they have right now."

But few of the diplomats surveyed at U.N. headquarters would go quite that far.

Young is criticized widely for spending too little at the United Nations, for failing to establish personal contact with Asian, Latin American and even Western European colleagues, and for damaging his own best asset - his credibility.

Invariably, the criticism of Young is oblique, stated more cautiously than is the norm even for diplomats, and bears little resemblance to the blunt attacks that were made against Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of Young's outspoken predecessors. This reflects a belief that Young, unlike Moynihan, wields real power within the administration he serves.

But Young's unpredictability "is a quality that makes all diplomats nervous," one Western European said. Even some Africans have expressed worries about his status within the administration, and the effect that his domestic undoing might have on the policies he is pursuing, which they support.

"His main strength is within the U.N. and his main weakness is outside it," said Austrain Ambassador Peter JanKowitsch. "The one thing that could do him in is the American people. Here, he has reestablished the political presence of the U.S.; he has made the good will of the Carter administration believable. So now the Americans are receiving the benefit of the doubt, something they didn't have before, and no mean feat."

Young dividend the United States has already been spending is time - time to pursue initiatives in Rhodesia and Bolivia while the radical forces are held in check and the moderates await the outcome.

Another anticipated dividend, as an ambassador from a black Caribbean nation put it, is "the opportunity to reduce the climate and frequency of confrontations between the West and the Third World on issues beyond those of Southern Africa.

These are the assets that make Young a positive factor, "on balance," for those Western nations, such as Britain and Sweden that benefit from his impact but occasionally suffer from his public criticism.

A Swedish diplomat said, "We are less obsessed than many of our friends are" by Young's charge that the Swedes are "terrible racists." Sweden's policy, he said, is to avoid damaging its improving relations with the United States by overreacting to Young's remarks.

British Ambassador Ivor Richard, who tangled with Moynihan and was the target of several of Young's tart asides, insists that Young's work "has not hurt our relationship - not a scrap."

Young, says Richard, has kept doors open and has been able to create a new relationship with the Third World, particularly the Africans, that has proved beneficial to the West as a whole.

But the British and other Westerners are uneasy in their belief that American foreign policy is, as one said, "more radical now - ahead of the rest of us."

Conservative Asian, Latin American and Western European diplomats, along with a few Africans and the Chinese, are aalso disturbed by Young's - and Carter's - playing down the Cuban and Soviet threat in Africa. And some Soviet threat in Africa. And some Arab diplomats fear that Young's relationship with the Africans will weaken African support for anti-Israeli actions at the United Nations.

While these fears mean that Young is not as universally beloved by U.N. diplomats as he claims to be, the result could be viewed as either beneficial or damaging to American national interests - depending on the definition of what U.S. interests are.

The most telling and pervasive criticism of Young is that he has spent to little time on the U.N. job.

No one objects to his political roles as a Cabinet member and a proselytizer for Carter's "open" foreign policy in speeches around America. It is just that diplomats from every region but Africa complain that they have had Africa complain that they had little or no contact with Young. Without top-level direction from him they feel, the U.S. Mission "not on top of" the U.N. issues in which they are interested.

Many have accepted Young's initial African emphasis without resentment, because that's where the U.N. action has been. But they feel that now is the time for Young to broaden his involvement, and they are beginning to worry because they see no signs of this.

Young is credited with the idea of bringing U.S. assistant secretaries of state to the United Nations to speak to ambassadors from their areas of responsibility. Terrence Todman met here with Latin Americans, Richard Holbrooke with Asians, and George Vest with Western Equopeans.

But many feel the need to press the flesh of Young himself.

"It's worth the time to be around the building and say hello," said a European ambassador. "When Andy does it, he does it well - he is so patently a nice guy."

Young himself, however, says he plans to continue concentrating on Africa, despite a public suggestion from President Carter that he should turn his attention to other issues now.

The coming fall session of the General Assembly should be a watershed for Young an Asian ambassador said, adding, "Ask me afterwards to asses him."

For the moment, said a Latin American, Young's "corner is southern Afrira and in it he is superb . . . But if he remains in that corner, that will cause him problems."