Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko, answering a question from U.S. industrialist Armand Hammer, said today he would agree to a summit meeting with President Reagan if the United States pledged not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
Hammer, 86, whose meetings with Soviet leaders date back to 1921 when he met Vladimir I. Lenin, told a news conference he had solicited the comment during a Kremlin meeting at Chernenko's invitation.
Hammer said he asked Chernenko if he would agree to an early summit if Reagan steered a treaty banning first use of nuclear weapons through the Republican-controlled Senate after talks between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Secretary of State George P. Shultz in Geneva next month. "Yes," Hammer quoted Chernenko as saying.
Chernenko last month said the timing was not right for a summit.
Hammer said the question asked was his own and did not reflect the position of the U.S. government.
Chernenko previously has listed U.S. adoption of a doctrine of no-first-use of nuclear weapons -- already part of Soviet policy -- as one of several "deeds" that could improve superpower relations.
While pledging not to be the first to launch any attack -- conventional or nuclear -- the United States has held to its right to use nuclear arms in response to a conventional attack against itself or its allies.
In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes said the United States does not "want to be the first to use any weapons," but remains opposed to a no-first-use pledge, United Press International reported.
Chernenko's publicized 95-minute meeting with Hammer appeared to be another in a series of appeals to American public opinion, emphasizing a Soviet desire to improve relations.
On arms control, Hammer quoted Chernenko as saying, "In this matter, one should roll up one's sleeves and get down to business by preparing concrete agreements on limiting and reducing armaments."