TThe Soviet Union today offered to reinstate Random House Chairman Robert L. Bernstein's visa to visit the country if the publisher agreed "not to abuse Soviet hospitality."
Bernstein had planned to attend next week's Moscow Book Fair, but the Soviet Foreign Ministry withdrew his visa.
Bernstein yesterday rejected the conditions, which he called vague.The Soviet Union then withdrew its offer, which came after Bernstein, in newspaper and television interviews, told of how he had been granted a visa last Wednesday for his long-anticipated trip only to have it canceled the following day.
"The Soviet government action has been insulting and intimidating to me, to Random House, and to all publishers going to Moscow next week," Bernstein said. "No American publisher should have to do business with the Soviets in this way, particularly when many Soviet writers are not free to see and talk with their American publishers."
The State Department received the unusual Soviet offer to reconsider the visa cancellation in a telephone call this morning. At Bernstein's request, State officials attempted to clarify what would constitute "abuse of Soviet hospitality."
Bernstein, long an outspoken advocate of human rights, is the publisher of dissident Soviet physicist and writer Andrei Sakharov and others out of favor in Moscow.
He boycotted the first Moscow Book Fair in 1977 because, he said, he could not learn what criteria the Soviets would apply in choosing which American books they would allow to be displayed and which they would bar from exhibit.
Since then, Bernstein changed his mind. He began planning for the second fair, which opens Tuesday, more than six months ago. He said he decided to attend rather than to seem to be in the position of one blocking the free flow of ideas. Randmon House's books will be exhibited despite his absence. Harper and Row has offered to man the Random House display.
A State Department official said the department told the Soviet embassy that "we're not about to get into negotiating an American's right to a visa. Our stand was the Soviets either give a visa or don't give a visa."
Bernstein said, "I was not planning to go over there to give press conferences. I was going there to do business." The vagueness of the Soviet conditions left him with no choice, he said. I didn't know what they meant."
The Soviets have refused a visa for a second U.S. publisher, Carl Proffer, head of Ardis House, which publishes works by many dissident Soviet authors. It was the second time this year that Moscow refused to allow Proffer and his wife, Ellendea, to enter the Soviet Union.