MOSCOW -- Vice President George Bush and Secretary of State George Shultz met for nearly an hour today with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov for talks on issues ranging from human rights to arms reduction, U.S. officials said.
After the meeting, the official Tass news agency carried a report quoting Andropov as pledging Moscow's willingness 'to build relations with the U.S.A. on the basis of full equality, non-interference and mutual respect.'
Andropov and Bush -- both former heads of the intelligence agencies of their respective countries -- discussed Soviet-American relations for 45 minutes to an hour following the funeral of Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, U.S. officials said.
'The challenges, while enormous, are far from insurmountable,' Bush said in a statement after the meeting in the Kremlin, which also was attended by Shultz and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.
'The meeting was frank, cordial and substantive,' Bush said. 'It gave both sides the opportunity to exchange views on the state of their relations.'
Tass described the meeting as a 'conversation' that included 'a short exchange of of opinion on key questions of Soviet-American relations.'
Bush listed human rights, arms reduction and peaceful solutions to regional problems as America's top goals.
'We are hopeful thatthe Soviet leaders approach our common responsibilities in the same spirit,' he said.
The statement was issued before Bush flew to Zimbabwe aboard a U.S. Air Force jet to resume an African tour interrupted by Brezhnev's death. Shultz departed at the same time for Washington.
Earlier today, Bush and Shultz met with Andropov for about a minute at the Kremlin's ornate St. Georges Hall during a reception that followed Brezhnev's funeral.
Andropov also spoke for nearly three minutes with Chinese Foreign Minister Huang Hua, who Sunday expressed Peking's desire for improved relations.
On their way out of the reception, Bush and Shultz took a wrong turn and had to be pointed in the right direction.
They then walked past a portrait of Brezhnev without stopping, unlike other guests who paused in front of the photograph in a gesture of respect for the deceased leader.
As head of the U.S. delegation, Bush said on his arrival that he came 'to declare to the Soviet leaders, to the Soviet people and to the world that the United States is devoted to the pursuit of peace and a reduction of global tensions.'
Although the vice president did not assess blame for the current chill in Moscow-Washington relations, Shultz took a harder line at a news conference Sunday at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hartman.
'The steady, relentless buildup of Soviet military capacity has in effect forced the United States, after quite a period of not pushing its defense establishment forward powerfully, to look to our defenses and our strengths,' Shultz said.
Shultz specifically cited the Soviet influence in Poland, human rights problems in the Soviet Union and the Kremlin's military buildup as obstacles to improved East-West ties.
'I can't really imagine why anyone could have grievances against our policies and our foreign policies,' Shultz said.
'We have demonstrated all over the world that we have a constructive point of view,' he said. 'We're part of the solution, not part of the problem, and our message here is the same.'
Bush, his wife, Barbara, Shultz, Hartman and his wife, Donna, represented the United States Sunday at ceremonies before Brezhnev's bier, which lay in state since Friday at Moscow's House of Unions building.
The U.S. delegation presented a floral wreath with a banner that read 'From the People of the United States' and stood silently for a few seconds at the foot of Brezhnev's casket.
As they were being led away by a Soviet escort, Bush asked if he could speak with Brezhnev's wife, Viktoria, 74.
As Bush approached, she stood and smiled and they shook hands. Bush said through an interpretor that he was delivering his 'personal condolences and respects' and those of President Reagan to Mrs. Brezhnev and her family.