Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev met in his Kremlin office with U.S. Ambassador Malcolm Toon today for nearly two hours of talks dealing with the human rights issue and other controversies that have brought an unprecedented air of crisis to the relations between the Soviet Union and the Carter administration.
The U. S. Ambassy refused to characterize the content or atmosphere of today's session, but it was learned that there had been a "fairly pointed exchange of views."
Tass, the official Soviet news agency, said Brezhner "noted a number of aspects in . . . U.S. policy which do not accord with the aim of a constructive development of relations in the interests of the people of both countries and in the interest of stronger peace."
That statement, Tass said, was based on Breshnev's assertion that relations between the two superpowres should "be based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and noninterference in to each other's internal affairs" - a phrase that is an official [WORD ILLEGIBLE] commonly used here to describe the human rights issue.
Yesterday, Kremlin officials abruptly barred Toon from delivering a customary Fourth of July address on Soviet television unless he deleted a paragraph that touched on human rights. Toon refused and the talk was canceled.
[The State Department expressed official regret Tuesday about the cancelation, Reuter reported.]
During the one-hour, 40-minute meeting tofay, Brezhnev handed a reply to a previously undisclosed letter that President Carter sent to the Soviet leader in mid-June. It was speculated here that the President's letter proposed a summit meeting between the two for later this year.
In recent weeks, while Soviet anger mounted over the Carter administration's outspoken human rights policy, the White House has repeatedly said that it is eager for a meeting with Brezhnev, who was named Soviet president last month, making him both general secretary of the Communist Party and chief of state.
The Soviets have been irritated with the administration's talk of a summit meeting and have taken pains to say that it is an American idea that is far from fruition.
Neither the U.S. embassy or Tass indicated the contents of Carter's letter or of the reply.
While considerable attention has been paid recently to the human right issue, the other major area of dispute between the United States and the Soviet Union is the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Official Soviet press agencies have accused Carter of fueling the arms race with his decision last week to proceed with the air-launched cruise missile while barring production of a B-1 bomber fleet to succeed the 20-year-old B-52.
The cruise missile is a small, jet-powered pilotless drone that is cheap to produce, easy to deploy and hard to intercept. It can deliver a nuclear warhead on target hundreds of miles from its launch site with great accuracy.
Both the Soviets and the Americans have been seeking ways to unlock the SALT talks sometime this year following the failure of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to achieve a breakthrough during his March mission to Moscow. The Soviets denounced American proposals as a ruse designed to insure the U.S. strategic supremacy and they have not publicy softened their views.
Soviet anger over Carter's gestures to Soviet dissidents also has deepened in recent months. Carter sent a letter through the embassy here to dissident Nobel Laureate physicist Andrei Sakharov, and on March 1 the President met in Washington with Vladimir K. Bukovsky, a dissident who was exiled to the West after many year's imprisonment.
The Kremlin's secret police have arrested or seized nine dissidents since February in an attempt to end their human rights activities. Among those jailed are Alexander Ginzburg, who administered a fund for imprisoned activitists maintained with book royalties earned by exiled dissident Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Yurd Orlov, who headed a group monitoring human rights in the Soviet Union; and Anatoly Scharansky, a dissident spokesman who has reportedly been charged with capital crime of treason.
U.S. expressions of concern for the dissidents have further exacerbated Kremlin views toward the Carter administration.
Sharpening the issue is the approach of a fall meeting in Belgrade at which the human rights records of the Soviet Union, the United States and 33 other nations will be assessed in accordance with guarantees of the 1975 Helsinki accord on European security.
Tass said today that Brezhnev received Toon at the ambassador's request. Other sources said Toon originally's asked for a meeting with the Soviet leader in mid-January, when Toon presented his diplomatic credentials.
When the Carter letter arrived here a few weeks ago, Toon renewed his request. It was not revealed whether Toon had advance notice before this morning that Brezhnev would see him.
It was said there that Brezhnev, who is 70 and of uncertain health, engaged in "extemporaneous back and forth" discussions with Toon, a blunt-spoken career diplomatic who has dealt with the Soviets for 25 years.
This was a markedly different picture of the Soviet leader than that given by diplomats who observed and dealt with him here during the March arms talks with Vance and during Brezhnev's state visit to France last month. French diplomats have drawn a potrait of Brezhnev as a man of declining faculties, unable to follow a conversation easily and quickly exhausted. Toon was said today to believe that the French reports were "exaggerated."
Soviet psychiatrist Ernest Axelrod said Tuesday that KGB secret police has questioned him about his relationship with jailed dissident Scharansky and about an interview he gave to U.S. journalist Robert Toth, UPI reported.