MOSCOW -- President YuriAndropov told a group of U.S. senators that Moscow will ban anti-satellite weapons in space as long as the United States does the same.
Andropov's announcement in the meeting Thursday concerned 'elimination of the existing anti-satellite systems and the prohibition of the development of new ones,' the Soviet news agency Tass said.
Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., who led the group of nine lawmakers, said there could be problems with the proposal but it was 'made in good spirit and should be seriously examined.'
'Bear in mind that they already have a system that's being tested, that works, and we do not have one,' Pell said at a news conference after the two-hour meeting.
He said the offer would have to be examined to see if it is genuine or if it is a 'heads-I-win, tails-you-lose kind of offer.'
The senators, in the Soviet Union at the invitation of the Supreme Soviet, were scheduled to meet with their counterparts again today, followed by a luncheon in their honor at the Kremlin.
Pell stressed the need to consider the offer against the existing state of anti-satellite technology, 'a field in which the Soviets are now well ahead of the United States.'
In Washington, State Department spokesman Alan Romberg said the department would 'study carefully any serious Soviet proposal' to control space weaponry.
'There exist serious technical, substantive problems related to verification, among other issues,' he said.
Romberg said the Soviet anti-satellite system, which could be used to destroy surveillance and communications satellites, is the only existing system and has been operating in space for more than a dozen years.
Andropov greeted the American lawmakers in the Kremlin. It was the first direct contact with U.S. officials since Vice President George Bush and Secretary of State George Shultz came to Moscow for the funeral of Leonid Brezhnev last November.
Pell said Andropov, 69, spoke 'vigorously, clearly and forcefully. He has what he really needs to do his job -- his mind -- and it is absolutely first rate.'
Tass quoted Andropov as saying once the existing systems are dismantled 'the U.S.S.R. assumes the commitment not to be the first to put into outer space any type of anti-satellite weapon.'
Moscow will impose a 'moratorium on such launchings for the entire period during which other countries, including the United States, will refrain from stationing in outer space anti-satellite systems of any type,' Andropov said.
Other members of the Senate delegation included Russell Long of Louisiana, Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, Donald Riegle of Michigan, Jim Sasser of Tennessee and Paul Sarbanes of Maryland.