Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will raise the case of Soviet legal action against two American correspondents in Moscow during his talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva July 12 and 13, administration sources said yesterday.
THe unprecedented charges of libel against Moscow-based foreign correspondents were assessed by administration experts on Soviet affairs as threatening overall relations between the two countries.
Despite mounting pressures for retaliation against Soviet journalists in the United States, the State Department has refrained from escalating the rhetoric surrounding the issue.
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Administration spokesman said yesterday that they were continuing to convey to Moscow "our great concern" that the Soviet action against the correspondents of The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun could have an adverse effect on bilateral relation.
Privately, U.S. officials said that "a number of options are being considered" should the administration be forced to retaliate.
The libel action has created a new source of friction as administration officials prepared - for the Geneva meeting where Vance and Gromyko are to resume negotiations on a new strategic arms limitation agreement.
In a joint statement, Sens. Charles Mathias (R-Md.) and Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) called on Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev "to repudiate the indictments of these highly professional and responsible newsmen who represent two of America's most distinguished newspapers."
The two senators also urged President Carter to "call upon the Soviet leadership to disavow the harassment of all Americans living and working in the Soviet Union."
Other congressmen have privately expressed their concern to the state Department, according to officials.
The New York Times yesterday reported that three of its executives had conferred with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to discuss the matter.
One of the Times executives, James Reston, commenting that the two American journalists' face "an odd sort of trial," and that "The New York Times was advised before it started by the Soviet Embassy in Washington that there was no way the two reporters could win this case and no way the Soviet broadcasting agency could lose it."
The consensus among U.S. specialists on Soviet affairs is that the case against Craig Whitney of the Times and Harold Piper of the Sun was sanctioned at the highest levels of the Soviet government as a way to discourage contacts between Western correspondents and dissidents in the Soviet Union.
According to this view Moscow's action is seen as a subtle way to impose self consorship on correspondents and curb the flow of what Russians regard as "unfavorable news" about their country.