Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance said yesterday that the United States and the Soviet Union are so close to completing the framework for a new strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT) that "the next several days" may determine the timing of a summit meeting to sign the document.
"We have not completed it, but we really are now at what I would call the bitter end -- we're very close to completing it," Vance said on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM).
At another point, he said the negotiations are now down to "one or two" remaining issues, and "if we can make progress on those, then I think we can move promptly on to scheduling a summit."
Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy F. Dobrynin met with Vance to discuss SALT last Friday for the second time in as many weeks. Carter administration officials appeared to be encouraged after Friday's meeting, and there were indications that high-level decisions in the two capitals in the next few days might set the stage for final agreements.
President Carter's success in working out the essence of an Egyptian-Israeli peace accord in his Middle East trip a week ago will have "a positive effect" on the chances for Senate approval of SALT II, Vance told his television interviewers. White House officials previously expressed the belief that Carter was determined to push ahead with a SALT agreement even if he failed in the Middle East, but his success there is thought to have redoubled his desire to move quickly on SALT.
High administration officials have been saying that the timing of the Senate debate makes it essential to reach agreement with the Soviets by mid-March. However, this is only the latest of a string of hopes, intentions and deadlines for completion of the complex and controversial treaty.
Vance confirmed that U.S. and Soviet negotiators have discussed a summit meeting of Carter and Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. He repeated the U.S. view that the meeting should be in the United States, and said he believes it will.
According to informed sources, the Soviets have expressed the view that Brezhnev is not well enough to make a transatlantic flight to attend a summit. The United States has suggested Alaska or Hawaii as an alternative to the U.S. mainland, but the Russians are reported to prefer Geneva or some other place closer to home.
One of the still unresolved SALT questions, according to official sources, concerns encoding of telemetry, or missile testing data, as it is electronically beamed to Earth by Soviet rockets. The two sides have agreed to ban any such encoding that would impede verification of SALT provisions, but the United States has returned to the Soviets at least twice in recent months with proposals to tighten this.
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), an important figure in the treaty approval fight, has expressed consistent concern about telemetry encryption. In an interview, however, Glenn said the question is "really moot" at present because the loss of U.S. monitoring bases in Iran raises doubt about American ability to obtain sufficient data from Soviet missile tests even if the Russians "broadcast in the clear."
"I don't think we can move ahead until something is worked out" to replace the Iranian monitoring stations, Glenn said.
Some administration officials insist that even without the Iranian bases there are satisfactory means of verifying the SALT agreement. While conceding that there has been some loss in available data, the officials believe that enough data can be obtained from a variety of sources to check on Soviet compliance.