U.S. evangelist Billy Graham talked privately for more than three hours yesterday with a leading Soviet expert on the United States and said the two discussed how to improve U.S.-Soviet relations.

"I have met a very wonderful official here," Graham told reporters after the meeting with Georgy Arbatov, director of the state-run Soviet Institute of the United States and Canada and a member of the Communist Party Central Committee.

Graham said he and Arbatov had discussed "bettering relations between our two countries, religion in our country, this country, some of the history of our two nations, how we have worked together in the past and hopefully how to solve the problems that face us in the future."

The 63-year-old Southern Baptist minister, who once decried Communists as devil worshipers, is in Moscow to participate in a meeting of world religious leaders opposed to nuclear war. The Soviet Union tolerates religion but officially espouses atheism.

"The dialogue between atheists and believers, this is what we need," Arbatov told reporters. "We talked about strategic arms. We almost solved the whole problem," he added with a laugh.

Graham has called for a worldwide campaign to abolish all weapons capable of mass destruction.