NEW YORK, OCT. 3 -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze announced tonight they have agreed in principle on major provisions of a treaty to limit non-nuclear forces in Europe, requiring the destruction or withdrawal of thousands of aircraft, armored vehicles and artillery by nations on both sides of the line that once divided East and West.
The announcement, after more than five hours of negotiations here at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations, sets limits on weapons deployed in Europe, but does not cover the number of troops, a topic the negotiators left for subsequent talks.
The treaty must be approved by both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the former Warsaw Pact states, and Baker and Shevardnadze said they would consult with their allies before releasing details of the compromises reached here.
But they left little doubt they are confident that the way has been cleared for signing the accord at the Nov. 19 Paris summit of the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The signatories would be the heads of government of 23 nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union.
Baker reiterated tonight that the United States would not attend the conference without having a completed document ready for signature, but his statement indicated that he and Shevardnadze had put the major issues behind them.
The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, coming on the heels of the last year's dramatic political changes in Europe and announced on the same day as the formal unification of Germany, would be the largest arms control agreement ever consummated, and the first in Europe since the end of World War II.
In their talks today, Baker and Shevardnadze agreed to restrictions on military aircraft, long a stumbling block to an accord. A State Department official said the Soviets had shown willingness to overcome objections from military leaders and make substantial concessions toward an agreement.
At the same time, the two ministers acknowledged that several smaller issues, such as provisions dealing with helicopters and geographic zones in which weapons are located, remained unresolved and will have to be addressed by the Vienna negotiators in the next few weeks.
Baker said they had also made little progress on a strategic arms accord but might take up the issues at another meeting later this week.
In some respects, the treaty has been made less relevant by the collapse of hard-line communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union's agreement to pull back thousands of troops and tanks. But treaty advocates say it will make permanent the new, lower levels of troops and weapons and ensure against a sudden future rearmament. The accord covers Europe from the Atlantic Ocean east to the Ural Mountains, more than 1,000 miles east of the Soviet border with Poland.
The Senate must ratify any treaty signed by the president.
Following the talks, Shevardnadze said the United States and Soviet Union "have been able to reach a mutual understanding on all the major issues" in the conventional arms accord, including aircraft limits that had previously been the most contentious issue. "And of course, the Soviet Union made all the main concessions," he added, smiling.
A major disagreement in the talks had been whether limits should be placed on a large number of Soviet land-based aircraft based on land that have anti-ship missions and are part of the Soviet Navy. The Western alliance had been seeking restrictions on these planes in the treaty, but the Soviets had wanted to exclude them as compensation for the overwhelming U.S. advantage in carrier-based aircraft. The Soviets had sought to use the issue as leverage to push the United States toward naval arms control, which Washington has rejected.
Baker said the Soviets had now agreed on a specific limit on land-based naval aircraft, but he would not provide details. He said a smaller category of maritime patrol aircraft would not be covered, as the Soviets had sought. The two sides also reached agreement on total numbers of Soviet aircraft that would be permitted under the treaty, Baker said.
Another sticking point centered on including combat-capable trainers in the aircraft limits. The Soviets had said such planes were only for training but the United States had said they could be armed for combat and should be limited. Baker said the two sides "reached an understanding" on "all elements of aircraft" except for one unresolved issue involving helicopters. The disagreement over helicopters has to do with which types and how many will be permitted to be converted to non-military use.
Baker said the two sides also reached basic understanding on how to verify a conventional forces agreement but again was not specific.
The Soviets have been seeking the right to convert 4,000 to 5,000 tanks to civilian use, but the West has balked at such a high number and there was no word tonight on how this issue was handled in the talks.
Baker said he and Shevardnadze did not discuss the conflict in Afghanistan.
Although Baker and Shevardnadze did not devote much time to the strategic arms issues, both sides reviewed their positions and the Novosti Information Agency, quoting Soviet officials, said that the United States offered a new position paper to the Soviet negotiators.
Baker and Shevardnadze also issued a joint statement hailing the role of the United Nations and saying the Security Council "is reestablishing its crucial role in the maintenance of international security, peaceful settlement of disputes and prevention of conflicts." The statement pledged continued cooperation with the world organization and appealed to member states to adhere to the international economic sanctions imposed against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait.
Both Washington and Moscow also pledged to pay their United Nations dues promptly; in the past the United States has fallen into arrears but President Bush has asked Congress for full funding.