BAL HARBOUR, FLA., FEB. 16 -- Secretary of State George P. Shultz assured Israel today that the United States is not trying to stake out a specific position before any Middle East peace talks on the fate of the occupied territories.

Shultz told reporters that efforts to start new talks had become "somewhat sterile" and that the United States was trying to develop a "new blend of ideas" for resolving the conflict.

"We're not trying to stake out positions of one kind or another," Shultz said. "The historic U.N. Resolution is 242, and exactly how that will shape itself in a discussion, a real negotiation, remains to be seen. The thing is to get going at it."

Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and Arab recognition of the right of all nations in the region to live in peace and security.

Shultz was in Florida to brief the AFL-CIO executive council on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty before the Senate. Shortly after his appearance, the council approved a resolution urging Senate approval of the treaty.

The council warned, however, that the United States must continue to maintain "a credible deterrence against a Warsaw Pact attack on Western Europe." It said this would require a restructuring of U.S. strategic nuclear forces.

At a news conference later, Shultz was asked to respond to a warning from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Shamir would not accept President Reagan's "territory-for-peace" principle as the basis for entering new negotiations on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The United States has proposed an approach that would begin with Arab-Israeli talks on limited autonomy for the occupied territories, then negotiations on the final status of the territories within six months based on the "territory-for-peace" principle outlined by Reagan in 1982.

Last week, Shamir sent an envoy to outline to Shultz Israel's objection to the approach. The envoy met Sunday with a top Shultz aide in Washington.

Shultz said today that the United States has been involved in intensive discussions with all of the governments involved in the Middle East. He described discussions with Israel as "a tremendous and rich back-and-forth" and added that he was not surprised by Shamir's opposition.

{Shamir, ending a two-day visit to Italy today, said the United States should try to be "an honest broker" in the Middle East and mediate a settlement without injecting its own opinions, United Press International reported.}

Shultz said the parties to the process should stop getting bogged down in the debate over how to negotiate and begin looking at the substance of the negotiations.

Later today, the AFL-CIO condemned Israel's "use of excessive force" against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, its first rebuke of Israel, according to federation spokesman Rex Hardesty. "They haven't crushed children's hands before," he said.