President Reagan suggested in an magazine interview released this week that he never called the Soviet Union an "evil empire."

Asked by U.S. News & World Report how he could expect the Soviet Union to negotiate an arms-control agreement "after you've denounced them as liars and cheats who run an evil empire," Reagan said, " . . . those weren't my words." He added, "I was only reciting what they had said."

Reagan says the Soviets "have repeatedly stated that their morality is based on what will bring about the world socialist revolution, that anything that furthers socialism is moral and therefore lying is perfectly all right."

He apparently confused a March 8, 1983, speech to the National Association of Evangelicals with an answer to a question at a January 1981 news conference.

In the speech to the evangelicals, Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire."

At the news conference, he said the Soviets have reserved the right " . . . to lie, to cheat . . . ."

A White House spokesman later said that Reagan, in saying "those weren't my words," was referring to the "liars and cheats" phrase. As for the term "evil empire," deputy press secretary Bob Sims said Reagan "would not deny that he used that term."