Differences with France and the Soviet Union have upset U.S. plans to begin talks this year between NATO and the Warsaw Pact on reducing non-nuclear forces in Europe, a senior Reagan aministration official said Friday.
The dispute with France concerns whether European governments outside the two alliances should play a significant role in troop reduction decisions.France insists on a 35-nation review in 1992, which might lead to a suspension of negotiations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact if governments outside the alliances were dissatisfied with the results.
The disagreement with the Soviet Union is over U.S. conditions for a human rights conference the Soviets want to hold in Moscow. These include further easing of restrictions on emigration and freeing all political prisoners.
Despite progress on both fronts, the State Department does not consider the conditions met.
As a result, the senior official said, "almost certainly" the negotiations over reducing troops, tanks and anti-aircraft artillery in Europe will not open this year.
At one point, the Reagan administration had hoped the negotiations would begin by year's end. "Not anymore," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The negotiations were seen as a way around 15 years of unproductive talks between NATO and the Warsaw Pact on troop reductions in Central Europe.
France, which participates in
NATO's political decisions but remains outside the alliance's military command, had wanted all European nations to play a role in troop reduction decisions. But France accepted a compromise last year at a North Atlantic Council meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, that the negotiations be held among the 23 members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact within the context of the 35-nation European Security Conference.
But now, the U.S. official said, France is insisting that the 35 countries - 33 in Europe along with the United States and Canada - meet in 1992 to assess progress in the negotiations.
This raises U.S. concerns that the conference could decide to suspend the negotiations.