West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, in a stepped-up effort to persuade the United States to resume arms talks with the Soviet Union on European-based nuclear missiles, was said today to be ready to press U.S. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. next week for a timetable on when such talks might begin.
According to a Bonn Foreign Ministry source, the West German minister wants to be given "a clear signal for a time frame" for the negotiations at a meeting of foreign ministers of Atlantic Alliance countries beginning Monday in Rome. Haig will be attending the meeting.
The West German statement is important, because, while a number of West European officials have made knwon their interest in a resumption of arms control talks, they have refrained from publicly pressing the Reagan administration on dates, voicing understanding for the new government's need first to review U.S. policy.
Bonn's attempt to pin the United States down on arms talks seems to reflect a judgment by the West German government that the Reagan administration is now far enough along in its policy review process to be pinned down.
Negotiations on European-based nuclear weapons are regarded by the Bonn government as part of the overall U.S.-Soviet strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) framework.While it is appreciated here that the Reagan administration is still far from having worked out an approach to SALT with the Soviets -- following Reagan's rejection of the SALT II treaty -- European officials maintain that it should be possible to resume very soon at least the talks in Geneva on so-called European theater weapons.
Bonn's decision to seek a more specific commitment from Washington also is a sign of the growing concern here about deepening pacifist sentiment in West Germany and several other West European countries. This has resulted in broadened opposition to plans resulted in broadened opposition to plans by the Western Alliance to station U.S.-made medium-range nuclear missiles in Europe beginning late in 1983.
The alliance decision to deploy these missiles, a number of which are to be positioned in West Germany, was initially coupled in December 1979 with an offer to the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact to negotiate limitations on such weapons. Unless the Reagan administration quickly and seriously pursues this negotiation track, Bonn officials have warned, the West's missiles modernization program will be imperiled.
Troubled by the diffeerences among members of the new U.S. administration about how soon such talks might begin and under what international conditions, Genscher reportedly sees the Rome meeting as a main opportunity to squelch doubt and encourage consistency in U.S. policy in this area.
Up to now, the Reagan administration has committed itself simply to resuming negotiations at some time. Haig has promised an "early" resumption, while U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, who was in Bonn several weeks ago for a meeting with other NATO defense ministers, sought to link the prospects of talks with the continued threat of Soviet intervention in Poland.
The Bonn Foreign Ministry source, who asked not to be named, said today it is the West German government's position that no "unrealistic linkages" be attached to the resumption of talks and that negotiations be conducted on the basis of mutual U.S.-Soviet confidence.
"Negotiations are not conducted to do the Soviets a favor," said the source, "but in our own self-interest."
U.S. officials have indicated that the Reagan administration may be prepared to begin a series of meetings with Soviet officials preliminary to resuming full-scale arms limitation talks. This could include a meeting between Haig and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the autumn.
U.S.-Soviet negotiations on European-based nuclear weapons began formally last autumn in Geneva, at which time the Americans and Soviets outlined initial positions to each other. Talks adjourned after one month.
The Bonn source today declined to specify how detailed a timetable Genscher would be seeking from Haig. He also left open the possibility that the "clear signal" Genscher wanted from the U.S. administration could be separate from the final communique at the Rome meeting.