The Senate Iran-contra committee yesterday released a newly discovered White House computer note from early 1986 in which then-national security adviser John M. Poindexter said that Vice President Bush was "solid" in support of a "risky operation" to sell arms to Iran to gain release of U.S. hostages.

"Most importantly, president and VP {vice president} are solid in taking the position that we have to try," Poindexter said in a note to his predecessor, Robert C. McFarlane, on Feb. 1, 1986, in which he sought to outline the positions of all the major administration policymakers.

Poindexter also said, "The hostage plan is still working and it calls for the hostages to be released on 9 Feb."

The note is significant because it adds another description of Bush's role in the Iran arms sales decision, and because it comes at a critical time in Bush's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Bush has offered different portrayals of his knowledge and role since the Iran arms sales were made public last November. He has said he was "aware" of Reagan's Iran arms sales initiative, that he was "deliberately excluded" from key meetings, and that he had "reservations" about the policy.

Yesterday, asked about the Poindexter note, Bush said, "If it says I stood with the president, the answer is yes, as I have been saying all along. All along. We stand with the report. I expressed reservations." Bush's only known reservation was that the United States was relying too heavily on Israel.

The Poindexter note immediately created ripples in the presidential campaign. Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), a member of the Iran-contra committee, said of Bush, "I think he has not faced the issue directly, but I think he will have to in the course of the primary campaign."

Former secretary of state Alexander M. Haig Jr., a rival Republican presidential candidate, said the note is "inconsistent with George Bush's various statements, including one last weekend, that he'd have opposed the arms deal if he'd known all the facts."

Poindexter wrote the February 1986 note just as Bush was prepared to issue the final report of his task force on combating terrorism, which Bush calls one of his major accomplishments.

The report said existing United States policy is to "make no concession to terrorists. It will not pay ransoms, release prisoners, change its policies or agree to other acts that might encourage additional terrorism."

"At the same time," the report added, "the United States will use every available resource to gain the safe return of American citizens who are held hostage by terrorists." The report was released March 6, 1986, when Bush declared, "We will offer no concessions to terrorists, because that only leads to more terrorism."

One week earlier, the White House had completed the delivery of the first 1,000 U.S. TOW antitank missiles to Iran. The day after Bush's news conference, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North flew to Paris to meet with Iranian military officials and other intermediaries in the arms deals.

Bush has said he was left out of some key meetings involving the arms sales but attended others. Bush was present Jan. 7, 1986, for a National Security Council meeting in the Oval Office where the matter was discussed in detail, according to the congressional report on the scandal. He also attended a smaller meeting the day before. At both sessions, a presidential authorization, known as a "finding," for the clandestine arms sales was discussed.

At the second meeting, according to the report, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and then-secretary of defense Caspar W. Weinberger "continued to object strenuously."

Reagan signed the finding Jan. 17 at another meeting Bush attended.

In the Feb. 1 note, Poindexter told McFarlane that "George {Shultz} and Cap {Weinberger} still disagree on policy grounds, but are cooperating."

Bush has said he did not hear these objections. He wrote in his recently published autobiography: "In retrospect, there were signals along the way that the Iran initiative was headed for trouble. As it turned out, George Shultz and Cap Weinberger had serious doubts, too. If I'd known that and asked the president to call a meeting of the NSC, he might have seen the project in a different light, as a gamble doomed to fail."

Bush claimed in the book he had been "deliberately excluded" from key meetings. He has acknowledged that he attended the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 7, 1985, when Shultz, Weinberger, Reagan and others were discussing whether to shut down the Israeli-sponsored sale of U.S. arms to Iran.

The question of the vice president's role has continued to crop up in the campaign. Questioned in a television interview last weekend, Bush said, "Well, if I had a lot more knowledge of what was going on, I would have said, 'Don't do this.' "

Along with the Feb. 1 note, the committee also released an earlier exchange between McFarlane and Poindexter indicating that the key policymakers were weighing a swap of arms for hostages. McFarlane said "it is likely that the Israelis are sucking us in" on the arms for hostages deal. Poindexter reassured him the Israelis were "under control" and the effort had been structured "to get the hostage deal out of the way first."

The notes were turned up by a new search of the NSC computer sought by the Iran-contra congressional committees last summer. Originally blocked by White House officials, the panels, with the House taking the lead, were finally permitted to test a program designed to recover messages which senders thought they had destroyed.

Yesterday, the Senate panel said that 96 new notes had been turned up of which the three released contained the only new information. The notes, the committee said, "contain no information that would alter the committees' conclusions or the facts described in the committees' report."

Staff writers James R. Dickenson, George Lardner Jr. and Lloyd Grove contributed to this report.