U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance conferred today with the U.N. fact-finding commission on Iran and said that "the door is still open" for the panel to help solve the American hostage crisis.

"I'm counseling patience," Vance told reporters after leaving the 2 1/2-hour meeting with the five commission members. "I believe this is the best course to follow and I think we should continue to pursue this avenue."

He also spent 45 minutes conferring with U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, talks that Vance called a "useful exchange of views."

"I believe I have a clearer view of the situation," after the succession of talks with Waldheim and the commission members, Vance said.

Asked if he had any encouraging words for the families of the estimated 50 American hostages held since militants captured the U.S. Embassy Nov. 4, Vance said, "I can give them nothing new in terms of time [for release]."

He refused to discuss details of the sessions with the commission or Waldheim, saying he would leave it to the U.N. officials to reveal any details. The commissioners -- Mohmmed Bedjaoui of Algeria, Abid Daoudi of Syria, Andres Aguilar of Venezuela, Hector Jayewardene of Sri Lanka and Louis Pettiti of France -- left the U.N. headquarters without making any comment.

The commissioners met with Waldheim for about an hour before their session with Vance.

Asked if a time had been set for the commission to return to Iran, Vance said that the panel and Waldheim would have to make and announce those decisions.

The five lawyers, who spent 17 days in Tehran investigating Iranian grievances, departed Tuesday morning after they were unable to gain access to the American hostages as promised by Iranian authorities.

Members of the commission were sent to Iran to investigate Iranian charges against the deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with the understanding they would be allowed to see all the American hostages. But after completing their work, they were denied permission to see the Americans, who have been held by Moslem militants for more than four months.

Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, changing signals, refused to allow the commission to see the hostages unless they released their report on the shah's government before leaving the country.

Commission co-chairman Andres Aguilar of Venezuela was asked at New York's Kennedy International Airport if he thought the panel's mission was a failure.

"No, I don't think so," he replied, adding that the commission's work "is not yet finished."