The U.S.-Soviet accord on eliminating intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles drew a muted reaction on Capitol Hill yesterday, with lawmakers expressing general support for the pact but raising questions about its military significance and whether it is in the United States' interest.

No one contacted in Congress flatly opposed ratification of the tentative INF agreement outlined by U.S. and Soviet officials yesterday, but few embraced it without reservations.

At the same time, many Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress agreed that the accord is likely to help improve President Reagan's image on Capitol Hill. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said, "It will slow down the process of lame-duckism."

Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said, "I am optimistic that there is progress, but . . . the Senate may add reservations or understandings of its own."

"I think it's a small step in the right direction," said Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Verification is going to be "very, very important." He said he believes the Senate has a "disposition" toward ratificatiion if verification details turn out to be satisfactory.

Sen. Sam Nunn, (D-Ga.), Armed Services Committee chairman, did not commit himself on an INF agreement but said the talks had shown "signs of considerable progress, no doubt about it," on INF and some progress on strategic arms reduction. "I may very well vote for it."

Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, expressed caution, saying any INF treaty can be reliable only if there are strong verification provisions, an accompanying modernization of U.S. and NATO forces and other provisions.

However, former Delaware governor Pierre S. (Pete) DuPont IV, another GOP presidential aspirant, denounced the treaty, saying that it "looks like a bad deal for the United States since we will be entrusting our nation's security to the integrity of the Soviet government."

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, "It sounds very hopeful, an important breakthrough. I hope it's only the beginning. It's not going to be easy, but I believe the Senate will do the responsible thing."

Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.), who is among the Senate's most conservative members, described himself as "appropriately skeptical, waiting to see what flesh goes on the bones." He noted that the agreement improves European security "but doesn't reduce any missiles aimed at the United States."

Sen. Steve Symms (R-Idaho), another staunch conservative, said he has reservations, adding, "The Soviets haven't complied with any treaty they've agreed to."

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) called it "welcome progress." He said he intends to schedule hearings "as soon as possible after it is submitted to the Senate." He said he thinks that means "early in the new year."

However, Pell added,"The ultimate value of an INF agreement will depend on whether it leads to subsequent agreements on strategic weapons and nuclear testing. And the jury is still out on that."

Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.), a candidate for his party's presidential nomination, said the agreement "breaks new ground in that it provides for the complete elimination of two classes of missiles, but it only marginally reduces the actual number of nuclear weapons deployed on both sides and it does not cover a single warhead targeted on the U.S."

In the House, which does not vote on ratifying treaties, Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the accord "a C-minus agreement" that could be easily circumvented by the Soviets unless the superpowers "move very quickly on {limiting} strategic systems."

Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said he is "very optimistic" but wants to see "the fine print" on verification. "It's a first step, the first-ever reduction in nuclear weapons since the beginning of the nuclear age."

Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), the majority whip, saying that he can count 22 votes against an INF treaty, said, "We may well be on the eve of a very significant breakthrough in U.S.-Soviet relations {but} I don't take {ratification} as a given."

To be ratified, a treaty must be supported by two-thirds of those senators present and voting.