Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev yesterday engaged congressional leaders in an extraordinary, free-wheeling debate over issues dividing the Soviet Union and the United States and proposed a new U.S.-Soviet venture to resolve human rights disputes.

Sitting across a long table in the ornate Gold Hall of the Soviet Embassy, the leaders argued intensely but amiably for nearly 90 minutes in what the lawmakers described as a "remarkable" and "stunningly frank" exchange of views.

Gorbachev also expressed satisfaction with the meeting, noting at the White House soon afterward that the members he met were "sure" that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty eliminating medium- and shorter-range missiles, which he and President Reagan signed Tuesday, will win ratification in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) spoke in a similar vein, predicting after the session with Gorbachev that the Senate will ratify the treaty without adopting crippling amendments and saying he hoped to work for a big Republican majority in its favor. In a new formulation of his own position, Dole said, "I've indicated from the start that I support it {the treaty} in principle." {Details on Page A4.}

With a mix of candor and charm that appeared to impress even his strongest critics in the embassy meeting, Gorbachev defended Soviet policies, urged patience while they are reexamined and suggested that American leaders subject their policies to a similar reevaluation.

"We will try to send you the necessary vibrations. We hope to get good vibes from you," he was quoted as saying by Senate Majority Whip Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). "Why don't you do a little less criticism of us for a while and think about what you can do on your side to improve the relationship?" Gorbachev asked, according to Cranston.

Accusing the United States of jailing peace demonstrators and curbing immigration from Mexico while charging the Soviets with human rights violations, Gorbachev acknowledged a fundamental difference of interpretation of human rights, and he suggested meetings between Soviet and U.S. leaders to air and possibly resolve the disagreements, the lawmakers said. They indicated that the United States probably will pursue the idea.

Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) told Gorbachev that winning Senate ratification of the INF Treaty would be easier if the Soviets announced a "definitive and realistic" timetable for withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan, and other lawmakers urged steps to improve human rights in the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev reiterated a Soviet desire to withdraw from Afghanistan but appeared to link it to resolution of other regional disputes, including involvement by the United States and the Soviet Union in Central America and the Persian Gulf, some lawmakers said. House Majority Whip Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) paraphrased Gorbachev as saying, "In all these conflicts there are good signs. We can make this happen in all three areas."

In a reference to the Persian Gulf, Dole wrote a letter to Gorbachev urging Soviet support for a U.S.-backed proposal at the United Nations to impose an arms embargo against Iran or Iraq if either country fails to observe a cease fire. Such support would demonstrate Soviet commitment to solution of regional problems, Dole said.

The meeting at the Soviet Embassy was arranged after plans for a speech by Gorbachev to a joint meeting of Congress collapsed amid protests from conservative GOP lawmakers. According to Cranston, House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) and Senate Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) apologized to Gorbachev for the incident. Cranston quoted Gorbachev as shrugging it off, saying it was "perhaps just a sign of our difficult times."

The reaction of Republicans who attended the meeting was generally positive but less enthusiastic than the reaction of Democrats.

Dole described Gorbachev as "animated, alert, candid," but added, "I don't buy everything he said, obviously. I don't trust him yet. That doesn't mean it's a forever proposition. We have to see some action."

Coehlo said he was struck by Gorbachev's "tremendous confidence . . . his total command of the situation, a comfort level that you see in some politicians, but not all." There was a sense that "you were dealing with the kind of leader who you had during World War II, but not since," Coelho said.

Little things appeared to make a difference, such as use of American idioms like "beating around the bush" and "taking the bull by the horns," phrases cited by several lawmakers in their recollections of the meeting. "The thing I liked about him is he's ethnic," said Coelho. "He talks with his hands. When you do that you can't hide what you feel. . . . You feel what he feels."

Gorbachev, who spoke without notes, appeared both sensitive to congressional pressure-points and critical of congressional interventionism, almost to the point of sounding like an American president in his complaints.

"We have our conservatives, too," Cranston quoted him as saying in what appeared to be an oblique reference to conservative opposition to the treaty in the Senate. "Our conservatives are accustomed to a certain way of life, a certain order of things. They need to change their attitude towards life," Cranston said Gorbachev told the session.

As for Congress, he said, it has often been an impediment to U.S.-Soviet cooperation in attempting to dictate policy to the Soviets. "It's painful for us when we have ultimatums handed down by Congress demanding a total change in emigration . . . demanding that we change the socialist system, abandon it," Cranston quoted him as saying.

Several lawmakers noted with approval a Gorbachev claim that moves toward reform within the Soviet Union and toward better relations with the United States are "irreversible." Gorbachev said, "They've made the choice, it's irreversible," Simpson said.

Attending the meeting in addition to Byrd, Dole, Wright, Cranston, Coelho and Simpson were House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and House Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.).