The White House and the Senate leadership expressed hope Tuesday that verification concerns that have caused the INF Treaty to hit a snag will be worked out this week in time for the pact to be ratified before the Moscow summit.
Senate Democratic leader Robert Byrd said the treaty, which had been slated for consideration Wednesday, had been placed on the "back burner" until the Soviets offer assurances that apparent differences over verification have been bridged.White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater called the postponement "a prudent and responsible course of action" in the face of "unsatisfactory" Soviet responses to technical questions about how compliance with the treaty will be monitored.
At the same time, Fitzwater minimized the seriousness of the problems that surfaced in recent exchanges with the Soviets and said: "We hope to resolve these issues quickly. We are still of the view that it is possible to have the treaty ratified prior to the summit."
"These are the kind of technical implementation aspects that were bound to come up, were totally expected and will come up in future years," Fitzwater added.
The Senate, which had been scheduled to begin debate on the treaty Wednesday, postponed action Monday after concern was raised about flaws and ambiguities in provisions dealing with how compliance would be monitored.
Senate Republican leader Robert Dole, who joined three other members of the Senate GOP leadership Tuesday in a meeting with Reagan, said the president "is still hopeful that matters can be resolved very quickly" but added "there is no argument that there are issues that must be resolved."
Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., told reporters the problems center on "three or four" concerns raised by the U.S. side. "We just hope only misunderstandings on verification," Lugar said.
In any event, both expressed hope the questions can be settled - and satisfactory assurances obtained from the Soviets - When Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze meet Wednesday and Thursday in Geneva.
"These things, I believe, are all surmountable," Lugar said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren, D-Okla., said Monday that the administration "had an alarming indication that the Soviets may be backing away from what we think is very clear language of the treaty in the on-site inspection area."
In Geneva Tuesday, Shevardnadze ruled out the possibility of having a strategic weapons agreement ready for signing at the upcoming Moscow summit.
Reagan and Gorbachev probably will "summarize the very substantial work" at strategic nuclear arms negotiations that have taken place since their meeting in Washington in December, Shevardnadze said.
He said he and Shultz would try to make further progress on a Strategic Arms Reduction, or START treaty.
"But I don't think we will be able to complete work on that agreement," Shevardnadze said.