Secretary of State George P. Shultz said yesterday that, as the Iran arms initiative was being organized, President Reagan never told him he had signed three documents authorizing the secret policy, but he refused to accept the conclusion that "the president was deceiving me."

On his second and final day of testimony before the congressional Iran-contra panels, Shultz was asked by Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) about a series of meetings involving the secretary of state that took place as the Iran arms policy was being set in motion.

One was on Dec. 7, 1985, two days after Reagan had signed the first of three "intelligence findings" covering the Iran initiative. On that day, Shultz and others had a lengthy meeting with Reagan in his private quarters, but Shultz said yesterday Reagan did not tell them of the finding.

The president signed a second such order on Jan. 6, 1986, but again did not mention it when he met with the secretary and others for another discussion of the arms sale plans, Shultz said.

On Jan. 17 Reagan signed a third and final finding, which governed the entire program of secret sales during 1986. But when he met with Shultz that same afternoon he did not mention it, according to the secretary.

Shultz said he did not learn of it until Nov. 10, a week after stories of the U.S.-Iran contacts broke in the news.

Shultz, who said he vigorously opposed the program with the president whenever it came up, told Mitchell yesterday that "if the thrust of your questions is that the president was part of an effort to see that I didn't know what was going on, I don't -- I don't believe that."

Following a dramatic first day of testimony in which he charged that the president had been misled by top advisers, Shultz yesterday hailed Reagan as a "hero" who had "instructed everybody, 'We're not going to cover anything up; we're going to go forward and make it all available.' "

However, he said, in response to a question from Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) that the president's secret arms-for-hostages deals had temporarily soured relations with friendly moderate governments such as Kuwait in the explosive Persian Gulf region and had undermined U.S. policy on terrorism.

He said he had been forced to cable the Kuwaiti foreign minister last Dec. 18 to reassure him there had been no change in U.S. policy on terrorism, after receiving a report that former national security adviser John M. Poindexter may have reversed a key part of it during a meeting with the official, but about which Shultz was not informed.

A State Department document released by the committees reported that Poindexter had asked the Kuwaitis to "do something" about Lebanese terrorists held in that country.

According to U.S. and Kuwaiti sources, Poindexter met with the Kuwaiti foreign minister here last Oct. 3, two days before then White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North opened secret negotiations with Iranian intermediaries in Frankfurt. Those resulted in a U.S. promise to develop a plan for release of some Kuwaiti prisoners as part of a deal to secure release of Americans held in Lebanon.

Shultz testified that it was the news of this secret "nine-point agreement" that shocked Reagan and made him "deeply understand that something is radically wrong here."

He said that marked a turning point in the Iran-contra affair.

In other developments yesterday:Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine) disclosed that the late Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey wrote a letter to Reagan last Nov. 23 "suggesting he needed a new pitcher" at the State Department.

This effort to force Shultz's resignation came three days after a major internal struggle that in which the State Department insisted on changes in Casey's testimony before the congressional intelligence committees. Shultz defended Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams as a "first-class person, a person of high character, very able, a person with a real instinct for public service," and expressed hope that he would continue as the State Department's point man on Central America.

Shultz acknowledged that Abrams had made a "mistake" when he misled the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Nov. 25 about a solicitation of Brunei for a contribution to the contras. Abrams, he said, then compounded it by making a "combative apology."

Criticizing Abrams for misleading Congress, Shultz said, "Nobody has to get my permission to tell the truth -- they must tell the truth." Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) said Casey had withheld release of a CIA study that showed the Iranian government was using terrorism as a weapon. That position ran counter to Casey's claim that U.S. involvement in the arms shipments to Iran had moderated Tehran's terrorist activities.

Shultz took issue yesterday with a claim of the NSC, which Reagan used publicly, that the Iran initiative had stopped terrorism against Americans.

Shultz's testimony generated good reviews from most committee members. Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), who has excoriated others who have appeared before the panels, praised Shultz for "integrity and honesty that has been sorely lacking in our other witnesses."

But the secretary, never a darling of conservative Republicans, came under fire from several Republicans on the committees for not pressing harder, or even threatening to resign, to drive home his opposition to the president's Iran policy.

Rep. Michael DeWine (R-Ohio) told Shultz: "You gave Adm. Poindexter complete authority to decide what you needed to know. You took the risk, and it was a risk, that he would give you enough information about the Iran initiative for you to do your job. In essence, you left the fox to guard the chicken coop."

At another point, DeWine said, "You walked off the field when the score was against you. You took yourself out of the game."

"Well, I'll just say that's one man's opinion, and I don't share it," Shultz said.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) suggested to Shultz that a threat of resignation would have been a forceful way to show Reagan how seriously he opposed the Iran arms policy.

"That's not the way to play the game at all," said Shultz, who revealed Thursday that, on three occasions, he had submitted letters of resignation, but never over a foreign policy issue.

In his defense, Shultz noted that he was faced with a National Security Council staff that "systematically deceived" him about the covert initiative. There was, he said at one point, "an operational role at the NSC that was not knowable."

"The operation was not in the hands of an accountable group," he told Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who also criticized him for not being aggressive enough.

At another point, Shultz, expressing frustration with others in the administration, said, "Sometimes I feel like I want to wring somebody's neck."

Shultz's appearance this week refocused the hearings on broad issues, away from the diversion of U.S.-Iran arms proceeds to the contras, a matter that dominated the proceedings during more than two weeks of testimony from Poindexter and North.

Shultz yesterday offered a candid assessment of the impact of the Iran-contra affair on relations with Middle Eastern moderate governments.

He disclosed, for example, that Jordan's King Hussein was "very disappointed" to learn that the U.S. government had secretly sold Hawk antiaircraft parts.

"Iran is your enemy and you sold arms to Iran, and I am your friend and you will not sell arms to me," Shultz quoted Hussein as saying. Congress last year put tight restrictions on the sale to Jordan of Hawk missiles, which Iran obtained from Israel with U.S. knowledge in 1985.

Nunn said recently that the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran may have been the key factor that led Kuwait to approach the Soviets for protection of their tankers, a step that the U.S. government has countered by reflagging the Kuwaiti tankers and providing them with naval escorts.

But documents and testimony that became available during Shultz's appearance this week describe a more specific complication in U.S. relations with Kuwait that grew out of the Iran initiative.

The pro-Iranian extremists holding Americans hostage in Lebanon have consistently asked for U.S. help in gaining release of the 17 Dawa prisoners held in Kuwait. (Al Dawa is a Shiite group.) The Dawa prisoners were convicted of bombing the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in 1984, killing six and wounding 80.

Most of the deaths occurred at the U.S. Embassy, where a terrorist drove a truck loaded with explosive into the compound and detonated it.

The United States has categorically refused to bring any pressure on Kuwait to discuss their release.

But last year, in an attempt to revive the stalled U.S. arms-for-hostages program with new Iranian intermediaries, retired Air Force major general Richard V. Secord and businessman Albert A. Hakim, who were private representatives of North and Poindexter, raised the possibility of U.S. help on the prisoners.

On Oct. 3, sources said, Poindexter met with the Kuwaiti foreign minister in Washington. According to two sources, the matter of the prisoners was raised, but Poindexter merely restated the usual U.S. position.

However, according to a report given to Shultz last December by Ambassador Charles Dunbar, "Poindexter told {retired CIA specialist George} Cave et al. that he personally had asked the Kuwaitis to do something about the Dawa prisoners. Cave believes that Poindexter met with the Kuwaiti foreign minister here in the fall . . . . North also met with the Kuwaiti ambassador and perhaps with other foreign ministry officials as well."

Diplomatic sources in Washington deny the North contacts.

In a meeting with the new group of Iranians in Frankfurt on Oct. 5, Hakim negotiated a nine-point agenda nicknamed the "Hakim accords."

The agenda was to govern a new transaction involving a trade of 500 TOW antitank missiles for at least one U.S. hostage. One point said that before the release of a U.S. hostage, Hakim, who was described as a "consultant" to the NSC, was to "present the plan for the release of 17 {Dawa} imprisoned" in Kuwait.

North testified that the nine-point agenda was only "an enticement" and that he did not believe it was "an advocacy for release."

"The fact is those people were going to come to be released anyway . . . and there ought to be some benefit derived from that for us," North told the committees.

According to Poindexter's "general recollection," the president approved the nine points during the 1986 campaign.

On Oct. 30, 500 U.S. TOW missiles were delivered to Iran and on Nov. 2 hostage David Jacobsen was released in Beirut.

The "Hakim accords," however, did not become known to the State Department until Dec. 13, when Dunbar met the Iranians in Frankfurt as part of a State Department effort to regain control of the Iran operation.

Shultz this week described a president who, in contrast to Poindexter's testimony that he had approved, was "furious" to learn of a U.S. document that changed policy on the prisoners in Kuwait. Shultz said he was "absolutely" convinced the president had not approved the plan.

"I have no idea what Adm. Poindexter did or didn't do, but if he were to have undertaken that . . . he had an obligation to make sure the president {understood} fully what he was talking about," Shultz said.

Staff researcher Michelle Hall contributed to this report.