HELSINKI, Finland -- President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, meeting at a one-day summit, failed to agree yesterday on the potential use of military force to drive Iraq from Kuwait but agreed to weigh additional steps to end the crisis if current ones fail.
Mr. Bush said that he had not asked the Soviet leader to dispatch troops to Saudi Arabia and that while he would like to see all Soviet advisers out of Iraq, he would let stand Mr. Gorbachev's position that the advisers are being phased out.
At the summit, sought by President Bush to bolster the international squeeze on Iraq, the two leaders announced that they were "united in the belief that Iraq's aggression must not be tolerated" and that "nothing short" of an Iraqi pullout and restoration of Kuwait's government "can end Iraq's isolation."
"Our preference is to resolve the crisis peacefully ... and if the current steps fail to end it, we are prepared to consider additional ones consistent with the U.N. Charter," the leaders said in a joint statement.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III noted later that the charter allows for action by air and ground forces. A key aim of the summit for theBush administration was to ensure that the Soviet Union would lend its support to tough action against Saddam Hussein if the sanctions did not work, and yesterday's statements fell short of that.
But Mr. Gorbachev repeatedly stressed the need for a politica solution and said he and Mr. Bush had devoted all their time to political ways out of the crisis.
Asked about the military option, Mr. Bush acknowledged, "We may have a difference on that. ... As Ithink I've answered over and over again at home, I'm not going to discuss what I will or won't do. And President Gorbachev made an eloquent appeal, with which I agree, that a peaceful solution is the best. So I've left it open."
At a news conference, Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev agreed that the United Nations should define what "humanitarian circumstances" would permit food shipments into Iraq and Kuwait under the embargo.
But they said those shipments should be monitored strictly to ensure that they are going to intended recipients, such as children.
The two also said that once the crisis ends, Mr. Baker and SovieForeign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze would "work with countries in the region and outside it to develop regional security structures."
They also agreed it was "essential" to work on resolving "all remaining conflicts in the Middle East and Persian Gulf," a reference to the Palestinians. This signaled a potentially major role for the Soviets in the Mideast peace process.
"What was said here is that it's very important for us to cooperate in the Middle East, just as it is on other
issues of world politics," Mr. Gorbachev said.
Mr. Bush held out the possibility of an international conference on Arab-Israeli disputes, but he insisted these should not be linked to the question of Iraqi aggression.
But Mr. Gorbachev said, "It seemsto me that there is a link here because the failure to find a solution in the Middle East at large also has a bearing on the acuteness of the particular conflict we've been talking about here."
The two presidents also agreed to spur negotiators to "move forward more rapidly" on a strategic arms treaty.
The leaders' joint statement underscored the extraordinary superpower cooperation aimed at reversing Iraq's takeover of Kuwait.
Mr. Bush told reporters who accompanied him on his flight home last night that he was very pleased with the joint statement and that his meeting with Mr. Gorbachev had accomplished its objectives.
"It was very successful for what we wanted to do," he said.
Mr. Bush said the Soviets had "expressed a solidarity not just with the United States but with so much of the world, I think it will stand them in good stead, and I think it sends a clear signal to Saddam Hussein."
The president said he believes Mr. Hussein had been "hopeful that he could divide and peel the Soviet Union away. ... He's tried it with other countries, and it's not working."
But, in a clear compliment to Mr.Gorbachev, the president noted that the statement sends a messsage "from a major power, from a superpower, a very strong message to him that he is not going to divide and conquer. ... We think it is superb."
Mr. Bush acknowledged again that there were differencebeween the two, but said: "I don't want to highlight those."
Yet their division over military force may weaken Mr. Bush's implied threat to Mr. Hussein.
By seeking the degree of consultation with the Soviets displayed by yesterday's summit, Mr. Bush would be under strong pressure not to attack Iraq without Soviet acquiescence, if not U.N. backing.
Asked if he has ruled out Soviet military participation, Mr. Gorbachev said, "I don't see the point of doing that now."
Mr. Baker said the fact that the Soviets didn't rule out the use of force was a step forward in light of recent public statements by Soviet leaders.