A peace group has protested a U.S. Department of Defense decision that prohibits Soviet inspectors from spending Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays at the homes of Utahns.

Rosemary A. Holt, president of Women Concerned About Nuclear War, said the rules "thwart the development of better relations between our two countries and encourage the old mentality that `we need to have an enemy.' "The group had asked the On-Site Inspection Agency to allow Soviet inspectors living in Utah to spend Thanksgiving at the home of University of Utah law professor Ed Firmage.

But the Defense Department said the Soviets may visit public places, including schools and churches, but not accept invitations to private homes.

"As citizens of Utah, we believe that we have a very special opportunity to implement and support the INF Treaty," said Holt. "Part of that opportunity includes extending friendship to the Soviet inspectors who now live in our community, far from their own homes and families."

A Defense Department spokesman said the decision forbidding Soviet inspectors from spending time in Utah homes came about for security purposes.

"It's not a good idea, from a security aspect, to provide security for the Soviets if they're going to individual homes," said the spokesman who spoke on condition that his name not be used.

"But we'll allow the Soviets to visit public places, such as churches, schools or just about any civic organization you can think of," he said. "We're simply saying `No' to requests that the Soviets visit individual homes. There's just too many requests to consider, and it makes guaranteeing their safety too difficult."