Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, home after talks with President Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, is publicly challenging the administration's interest in concluding a new strategic arms limitation talk (SALT) agreement.
Gromyko, in an interview distributed by the Soviet news agency Tass, said the Kremlin had expected his recent round of talks with U.S. leaders "to be more fruitful."
He said the Carter administration appeared to be using "certain events in Africa" to create "some kind of smokescreen." Gromyko suggested that the reason seemed to be White House unwillingness at this point to take on opponents of SALT by presenting a new treaty to the Senate.
"The Soviet leadership is beginning to think that the U.S. administration frequently gives little support to the agreement, and is not giving a due rebuff to its opponents and to those who oppose the agreement, be it openly or secretly, in or out of Congress," Gromyko said.
"We are telling the U.S. side directly: If you want the agreement and if, like us, you are fully determined to reach an agreement, then you must rebuff its opponents and create the appropriate atmosphere," he added.
Gromyko said the "extensive bourgeois propaganda campaign" being waged in the West over Soviet and Cuban involvement in Africa - accompanied by charges of a growing military threat from the Soviet Union - "are worsening the atmosphere in the world as a whole."
Apparently picking up on his heated White House clash with Carter over Africa policy, Gromyko said: 'It is precisely the political figures who know the true situation who make statements about the Soviet Union's responsibility for certain events in Africa."
He repeated his insistence that "neither the Soviet Union nor Cuba have anything to do with these events" - a denial that reportedly infuriated Carter.
This "stepping up of tension in the questions of Soviet-American relations and with regard to the situation in Africa is playing into the hands of those forces opposing the agreement" on SALT, Gromyko said.
"We are doing everything to speed up the agreement," he added, "but have not noticed the same desire on the other side."
Previous American presidents, he said, "in the past few years have found a common language with the Soviet Union on important questions of international policy. Why then is it not possible to find such a common language today?'
The GAP that still separates the United States and the Soviet Union on a SALT II pact is "becoming narrower," Gromyko said. But he added: "We believe that much faster progress could be made toward reaching the agreement about which we spoke."