ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 14 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today he has proposed forming a partnership with the government of Kuwait that would involve trade and medical assistance.

Combining patriotism with his zeal for economic development, Schaefer said that Maryland could offer postwar help to the occupied desert kingdom and boost Maryland businesses at the same time.

"They are concentrating now on taking care of their immediate needs . . . their civilization will be smashed to pieces," said Schaefer, who met with Kuwaiti Ambassador Sheikh Saud Nasir Sabah yesterday.

Schaefer's comments came during a news conference announcing a program to help the families of Maryland residents serving in the Persian Gulf.

The state is setting up a toll-free hot line for the families of Maryland troops in the gulf. Hot-line workers will help military families take advantage of existing programs to assist with family finances, housing and jobs and to provide psychological services. The state also will give the family members free admission to state parks, Schaefer said.

"The families are the unsung heroes. They're responsible for keeping their families on an even keel when the husbands and wives are away," Schaefer said.

Eviction assistance, emergency mortgage assistance, expedited claims for unemployment insurance, workers compensation and other programs will be available, but the families will still have to meet basic income qualifications.

"The fact is, a lot of these families have lost income by having to go to the gulf and these people have never had reason to seek this kind of assistance," said Luther Starnes, coordinator of the governor's Office of Citizen Services.

The service line, 800-564-9991, will be staffed weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. by state workers from the Department of Human Resources, who will offer help and referrals to other state agencies.

Details of the proposed Maryland-Kuwait partnership are sketchy, but Schaefer said he has offered to send medical teams from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Health Systems to Kuwait after the war and to make space available for traders at the Port of Baltimore and at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

"Maryland wants to be a player on the world stage," said Jane Howard, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Economic Development, which is developing the program. "It's an effort to establish a trading relationship with the Kuwaitis and also reach out a hand in friendship."

The idea originated with a group of Maryland executives who suggested the state should position itself now for the postwar Middle East marketplace, according to Randall J. Evans, secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development.

The visit with the Kuwaitis seemed to have charged Schaefer with indignation over news coverage of the U.S. bombing of an Iraqi shelter on Tuesday.

"This man {Saddam} Hussein is using the press to gain sympathy," Schaefer said, holding up a newspaper account of civilian casualties. "I assured {the Kuwaiti ambassador} I would call this to the attention of the people."