GENEVA, FEB. 2 -- The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a sharp verbal battle today over negotiations to eliminate chemical weapons.

Speaking at the opening of the annual 40-nation U.N. Conference on Disarmament, each side accused the other of poisoning the atmosphere and making agreement on a chemical weapons ban more difficult.

Soviet Ambassador Yuri Nazarkin said U.S. resumption in December of production of chemical weapons was "nothing other than an attempt to torpedo the process of chemical disarmament."

U.S. Ambassador Max Friedersdorf charged that the Soviet Union has misrepresented the facts and created "a pall of negativism and discouragement . . . which does not bode well for prospects here."

The conference is charged with covering a full range of arms issues including weapons in outer space and a nuclear test ban, but diplomats viewed chemical arms as its most promising area for progress.

{In Washington, President Reagan certified production of the Bigeye aircraft-dropped chemical bomb as being in the national interest, and the Pentagon said Tuesday that full-scale production should begin in 1990, United Press International reported.} d their agreement is crucial.

They have been holding separate negotiations parallel to multilateral and more laborious U.N. Talks, which started in 1968.

Crucial to the necessary U.S. Senate approval of any convention will be very strict measures to verify that there is no cheating, and Friedersdorf has said he would not give in until the chances of violations were neglible.

"We have many serious issues to be resolved," he stated -- including whether a country can refuse a demand for a quick search for weapons, how to verify the accuracy of declarations and how chemical firms can protect confidential information.

Czech Foreign Minister Bohuslav Chnoupek told the delegates that they were within reach of a chemical ban but that the U.S. resumption of production after an 18-year moratorium was a worrying development running contrary to the work in Geneva.

Friedersdorf declared Washington's commitment to a chemical weapons treaty, adding:

"Until we can achieve that goal, however, the United States will maintain a small, modernized CW retaliatory capability as a necessary deterrent against the threat of chemical attack."

Reuter AP-NY-02-01-88 1301EST