The Reagan administration, which once appeared certain to reject a Soviet request for a meeting about President Reagan's decision to disregard limits of the unratified SALT II treaty, is "looking at several other options," according to White House sources.
Two week ago, the Soviets asked for a special session of the U.S.-Soviet Standing Consultative Commission (SCC) in Geneva, beginning July 22, to raise questions about the meaning and implementation of the president's announcement May 27.
At that time, Reagan said he intended to exceed SALT II treaty limits later this year when the 131st U.S. B52 bomber is to be outfitted to carry air-launched cruise missiles.
Without dismantling some other system that bomber would take the United States above one of the SALT II limits.
The president added, however, that, before exceeding the limit, he would take into consideration both Soviet action to comply with the treaty and the status of negotiations in Geneva.
In addition to seeking an explanation at the SCC meeting for what Reagan meant by his statement, U.S. sources said, the Soviets may have wanted to use the session for propaganda purposes, building up European sentiment against Reagan's decision.
Some administration arms-control experts have contended that outright rejection of the Soviet request would work against the United States, according to sources.
Instead, these officials are proposing that the United States agree to meet the Soviets in August but limit the session to a few days, allowing the Soviets to detail their concerns.
Specific U.S. responses, however, would be delayed until the regular SCC fall meeting scheduled for October.
Another idea being discussed, sources said, would have the U.S. commissioner, retired general Richard H. Ellis, use the special session to reiterate alleged Soviet SALT II violations cited by Reagan as the major reason for his decision to disregard the treaty.
Key Defense Department officials have said privately that they oppose a special SCC session, although they refused to discuss the matter publicly. They noted, however, that the Soviets turned down a U.S. request for a special SCC session in 1983 to discuss questions about the large radar in central Siberia that Reagan has since termed a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
A Reagan aide said yesterday that a response on the SCC meeting could come "shortly."