The prosecutor in Michael K. Deaver's perjury trial clashed angrily with Secretary of State George P. Shultz yesterday after Shultz glowingly and repeatedly praised the former White House deputy chief of staff.

"The problem is I don't think you've listened to the question, Mr. Shultz," the prosecutor, independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr., said in icy tones. "I have asked, 'Do you have an opinion as to honesty and truthfulness?' You have been talking about reliability."

The explosion by Seymour failed to sway Shultz, who had described himself as a longtime friend of Deaver and as someone who had "a very high opinion" of Deaver's "integrity and honesty and truthfulness."

Shultz readily conceded that Deaver, who is charged with five counts of lying about his lobbying contacts with high Reagan administration officials, had met with him in the fall of 1985 to discuss a tax benefit for Puerto Rico, one of his clients.

As have a number of other prosecution witnesses, Shultz said, however, that Deaver's contact failed to influence him. Shultz said he was already in favor of the tax break and that Deaver's 12-minute meeting with him was therefore meaningless.

"My recollection is that he told me up front that he was representing Puerto Rico," the secretary said, praising Deaver at one point for "a direct, honest approach."

Moments earlier, Seymour tangled with Shultz after Shultz delivered what amounted to an unabashed testimonial on behalf of the former White House aide.

"Do you know what the defendant is charged with in this case?" Seymour asked.

"Yes, perjury," Shultz responded in a firm voice.

Seymour then asked whether Shultz had read the five-count indictment charging Deaver with lying to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury that investigated the lobbying firm he established after leaving the Reagan administration in May 1985.

When Shultz said he hadn't read the allegations, Seymour pressed him. "If this jury were to find beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that Mr. Deaver testified falsely, would that change your opinion?"

"My opinion I gave here is based on my own experience. And I've had a lot of it," Shultz countered. "It is based on matters that test people.

"I have found Mr. Deaver to be a very reliable, good person to work with," he said. That opinion, he said, won't be affected by whether Deaver is convicted because "it is based on my experience."

Seymour had called Shultz basically to verify that he met with Deaver at the State Department on Oct. 10, 1985, about the tax issue. In his grand jury testimony Deaver said he did not recall "any such discussion" with people other than Treasury Department officials.

Shultz, who described his occupation as "a professor on leave from Stanford University," was on the stand 35 minutes and testified after a day-long discussion of the complex tax issue by Richard D. Copaken, another lobbyist for Puerto Rico.

Copaken's appearance also proved to be a frustration for Seymour. Although Seymour succeeded in overcoming defense objections and placing into the record a copy of notes that Copaken kept during a telephone conversation with Deaver, Copaken said he could not verify the attribution of a potentially damaging quotation.

"Spoke with the Pres. yesterday," said the notes of a May 28, 1985, call, made 18 days after Deaver left the White House. But Copaken said he could not say whether Deaver had actually said those words or was quoting Richard Darman, a senior Treasury official, with whom Deaver had talked.

If Seymour had been able to show that Deaver had contacted the president on behalf of a client, he would have contradicted a pledge Deaver's associates have said their boss made when he established his firm.

Defense lawyer Randall J. Turk asked Copaken, a member of the firm Covington & Burling, "Did Mr. Deaver ever tell you that he contacted the president about 936 {the tax issue}?"

"I don't recall," the lawyer said.

"Do you believe he did?"

"I don't," Copaken said.