Italian Foreign Minister Emilio Colombo said yesterday that the western European allies want President Reagan to offer a new proposal or initiative soon at the deadlocked talks with the Soviet Union on limiting nuclear missiles in Europe "to get those negotiations going again."
"This is the position I will recommend" to the administration, the visiting minister said, "and I hope that it will be object of attention and reflection on the part of our American ally.
"I know that the position I recommend is shared by our European allies, especially some of those that are involved in the deployment" of new U.S. missiles to be installed in Italy, Britain and West Germany beginning in December if no accord with the Soviets is reached before then.
Colombo's remarks are a clear sign that allied leaders are increasing pressure on the White House to offer new initiatives at Geneva that might at least help persuade nervous Europeans that the West, rather than Moscow, is trying to solve the missile problem.
His comments would appear to be especially important because, if Reagan decides not to make any new move at Geneva, it will have done so in the face of a clear public call for action from a top official of one of the governments scheduled to receive the controversial Pershing II and cruise missiles.
Colombo talked with reporters at a breakfast meeting, then visited for 15 minutes with Reagan at the White House.
Later Colombo, under questioning, told reporters that, "The president appears open to an injection of new energy in the negotiations." Asked if that would require a new U.S. proposal at Geneva, Colombo said, "My opinion goes in this direction."
But he gave no indication of whether the president would take such a step, and added that any such move must be discussed in detail with the United States and the other allies.
An informed administration official said that the possibility of making a new proposal is under "somewhat more active consideration" within the administration, but that no consensus has developed on whether to take such a step or what it might be.
In each of his meetings with reporters yesterday, Colombo, speaking through an interpreter, stressed that the victory Sunday of the conservative Christian Democrats in West German elections has "strengthened the position of the alliance" in dealing with the Soviets and has "actually clarified the positions" on the what should be done next within the alliance.
"Now this great strength must be used in order to get a new negotiating effort under way," he said.
Colombo said he supports Reagan's "zero-zero" proposal of November, 1981, under which the West would forgo deployment of the 572 new Pershing II and cruise missiles if the Soviets dismantle all 600 of their existing intermediate-range missiles, most targeted on western Europe.
But he noted that Reagan also has said his plan was not a take-it-or-leave-it proposal, that the Soviets have rejected it and that a new western initiative would "throw the ball back in the other court" to Moscow. It would, he added, "leave the responsibility of a lack of outcome" at Geneva "to those who wish to take it."
Allied officials have noted many times that to overcome political and popular opposition to the deployment of new U.S. missiles, the United States must be perceived as having negotiated in good faith at Geneva.
Reagan has said that he would consider any "serious" Soviet counterproposal to the zero-zero plan but that one has not been presented and that the United States will not submit a new proposal until the Soviets are more forthcoming. Reagan termed inadequate a Soviet proposal a few months ago to limit their missiles in Europe to the number in the independent French and British missile forces
Thus, for the administration to now respond to the allies and offer a new initiatve of some kind without a Soviet proposal first would involve a shift of position.
"We share the evaluation of the United States as to the absolute insufficiency of the Soviet answer to the zero option," Colombo said. But, he added, "We ask ourselves now whether to start the negotiations rolling again it wouldn't be useful to have now a western initiative, and my answer to this question is in the affirmative."
Administration sources have said privately in recent days that several officials, mostly in the State Department, believe some interim compromise based on an equal level of missile forces for both sides should be proposed.
They have said that there is a chance such a move might come before the current round of talks at Geneva ends late this month.
At a Pentagon news conference yesterday, however, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger did not show enthusiasm about possible interim agreements. One problem, he said, would be getting the Soviets back to the negotiating table "for the follow-up" aimed a getting rid of all such missiles if an interim agreement was reached.
At the White House news briefing yesterday, spokesman Larry Speakes, asked about Colombo's remarks, said that while the administration is open to discussion with the allies there is "no change in policy in the U.S. approach today" and "no plan to change any policy as far as our approach to Geneva."