U.S. and Soviet diplomats have agreed on a preliminary format for the Geneva summit meeting, which President Reagan intends to use partly as a forum to forcefully question Soviet military and human rights policies, a senior administration official said yesterday.
Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev are scheduled to conduct the first summit of the Reagan presidency Nov. 19-20 in Geneva. A U.S. official who discussed preparations for the meeting said the two leaders will hold nine hours of formal discussions and spend another two to three hours with each other at meals and receptions.
Under the preliminary plan, the first day would be spent in a general exchange of views. The second day of discussions would be divided into four specific areas of discussion which the official listed as regional issues, bilateral issues, human rights and arms control.
The human rights issue could become a sticking point before the final agenda is decided, officials have acknowledged. It is considered unlikely that the Soviets will agree to describe any agenda item as a discussion of "human rights," even though they recognize that the president may raise the issue on both days of the talks.
The official who discussed summit preparations said that the arms-control discourse comes at a "propitious moment for both sides" because of new U.S. and Soviet weapons systems still in development. He suggested that it would be easier to agree not to deploy new nuclear missiles than to dismantle them once they are deployed.
While the U.S. official did not emphasize the matter yesterday, Reagan has made it clear that he intends to present his proposal for the strategic defense system commonly known as "Star Wars."
While Soviet officials have repeatedly denounced this proposal, Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, chief of the Soviet general staff, indicated in an authoritative statement in June that the Soviets would accept continued research on Star Wars and might reduce the Soviet nuclear arsenal if Reagan agreed to limit testing and development of the defensive system.
The U.S. official used an eight-letter barnyard expression to describe the value of secondary agreements on trade, cultural, maritime and aviation relations which are likely to come out of a summit meeting. He said "the real telling measure of the meeting" will be determined by whether Reagan and Gorbachev could agree on an agenda for solving major issues between the two superpowers.
"That is what he [Reagan] was elected to do -- to set a course that can reduce tensions in the years ahead," the official said. He said that Reagan has emphasized in "very explicit and lengthy" instructions that he wants an "exchange on fundamentals" with Gorbachev.
"He wants to say that we have no hostile intentions to the Soviet Union, that you are a great power, that we don't seek to alter that, that you need not fear the United States trying to to alter, overthrow or fundamentally change your system," the official said.
"That said, we have some misgivings about whether you have the same benign intentions and we want to talk about that. There's Afghanistan. There is generally your policy of not providing for development of developing countries . . . not sending them food for peace or agriculture but weapons.
"This implies that your sense of the [Soviet] revolution is imperialistic, that you're really trying to expand Soviet influence . . . . Why should we not talk about that? Let's talk about weapons. It looks as if you're building beyond any reasonable scale of defense. Tell us how that isn't true."
The U.S. official who described this approach as representing Reagan's views said the president is preparing for the summit by reading basic "foundation pieces" about the Soviets which have been prepared by his national security affairs advisers. Four such articles, each about 10 pages, have been sent him so far. One is titled "The Soviet Union -- Communist, Czarist or Both?" Another is called "The Soviet Psyche." The other two deal with problems of historical and contemporary relations.
Starting in September, when he returns from his California ranch, Reagan will convene principal Cabinet officials and advisers "in intimate settings" and hold weekly meetings in preparation for the summit, the official said.