BONN, JAN. 18 -- The Soviet Union today called for dismantling all of the world's tactical nuclear arms -- those with ranges of less than 300 miles -- but said that negotiations on such weapons could be postponed for a while.

"We are for a complete elimination of tactical nuclear means, which would be in accordance with the inherent interests of all Europeans," Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said in a speech at a state dinner this evening.

Shevardnadaze's declaration confirmed long-held expectations within the western alliance that Moscow would press for a "third zero option" providing for dismantling all of the world's shortest-range nuclear weapons.

The Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, signed last month in Washington, embodies what is called the "double zero option," because it provides for scrapping all nuclear missiles in two range categories: from 300 to 600 miles, and from 600 to 3,500 miles.

But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization opposes a "third zero option," because it believes that it is necessary to keep some tactical, or battlefield-range, nuclear weapons as a deterrent in view of the Warsaw Pact's perceived superiority in conventional, or nonnuclear, arms.

The Soviet Union, since January 1986, has supported elimination of all of the world's nuclear weapons by the year 2000. But the Soviets had not previously made a public proposal specifically urging abolition of tactical nuclear weapons.

Shevardnadze, on a two-day visit to Bonn, coupled his proposal with a potentially significant concession. By saying that talks on tactical nuclear arms did not have to begin immediately, he appeared to open the way for progress in multilateral negotiations in Vienna aimed at reducing conventional forces.

One of the main disputes at the Vienna talks has centered on the Soviets' insistence that the negotiations cover nuclear arms deployed on weapons systems such as aircraft or artillery that can be used to deliver either nuclear or conventional explosives.

NATO has said that the issue of nuclear arms on such dual-capability systems should be handled separately from talks on conventional systems, and Shevardnadze signaled that talks could proceed on that basis for the moment.

"One could at least begin by discussing in the coming negotiations {in Vienna} about reductions of armed forces and conventional arms in Europe the question of the delivery vehicles with dual capabilities. The nuclear component itself could be made the object of respective negotiations in the future, without postponing the issue for too long, however," Shevardnadze said.

A western diplomat said Shevardnadze "is saying that he wants to get on with it in Vienna."

The Soviet proposal for a "third zero" in tactical nuclear arms is particularly appealing to West Germany. As NATO's principal front-line state, it would be the place where the use of tactical nuclear arms would be the most likely in any East-West confrontation.

Shevardnadze clearly was trying to pressure the West Germans by making the proposal during his visit to Bonn, West German officials and western diplomats said.

West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Shevardnadze's host at the dinner, noted that tactical nuclear weapons "have special importance for us Germans." But he reaffirmed Bonn's support for the NATO position favoring reducing such weapons rather than eliminating them completely.

"Our goal is . . . the clear and verifiable reduction of these nuclear systems to equal ceilings" for both the Warsaw Pact and NATO, Genscher said.

Shevardnadze specifically called attention to the interest of front-line countries such as West Germany in seeing early reductions in tactical nuclear arms arsenals.

"These weapons would be put to use above all, and one may say exclusively, against European states that are situated along the line of contact between the two military-political alliances," Shevardnadze said.

The Soviet Union believes that "the principle of justice" requires that disarmament negotiations achieve the "disappearance" of such weapons "in the first stages," Shevardnadze said.

That comment was aimed at encouraging a split within NATO in which West Germany is pushing harder than its allies for early negotiations on tactical nuclear arms, West German officials said.

In comments that apparently were aimed primarily at France, Shevardnadze also said that his proposal for complete elimination of tactical nuclear weapons would require "participation of the other nuclear powers" besides the United States and the Soviet Union.

France, which has a small force of tactical nuclear missiles and plans to replace its arsenal with more modern weapons, has refused to join in U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms talks.

"It is not our fault that they are not ready" for such negotiations, Shevardnadze said.