UNITED NATIONS, AUG. 22 -- The United States tonight was pressing the U.N. Security Council to decide quickly whether to permit U.N. members to take military action to enforce U.N. sanctions against Iraq.

U.S. diplomatic sources said the United States wants to know the sentiment of the council by Thursday and is seeking a vote shortly afterward on a resolution authorizing the "minimum use of force" by naval forces in the Persian Gulf and nearby waters to block shipping to and from Iraq.

The latest U.S. push for council action came after President Bush said at a news conference in Kennebunkport, Maine, that Secretary of State James A. Baker III had spoken by telephone with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze. U.S. sources here said the purpose was to impress on Shevardnadze the great urgency and importance that the Bush administration attaches to Soviet support of such a resolution.

Bush said the United States feels it already has authority under the U.N. Charter to act against vessels violating the embargo, but he added that the United States was willing to wait a while to get broader U.N. approval for such action. U.S. sources here said that means the council must act by Thursday or the end of this week at the very latest.

"We hope the Soviets got the message in the last few hours that this could have major effects on its new relationship with the United States," a U.S. diplomat said. "The United States does not feel this matter can be dealt with on a leisurely, week-by-week basis, as the Soviets seem to prefer."

Also tonight, the Security Council held informal consultations on letters from Jordan and Bulgaria stating that the sanctions confront these countries with "special economic problems" from which they want relief. Jordan today closed its borders to thousands of refugees pouring out of Iraq and was expected to argue that it needs financial help to handle the refugees.

After tonight's session, participants said the two countries' pleas were being forwarded to the council's committee on the sanctions for further study. They said there was particular sympathy for Jordan, which the British ambassador, Sir Crispin Tickell, called "a very important and difficult case that needs special help." Participants said the sanctions committee probably will recommend short-term help for Jordan.

There was no discussion of military enforcement at tonight's meeting. Sources said the Soviet delegation indicated it was awaiting instructions from Moscow and nothing would happen until Thursday.

An earlier U.S. effort to push a military-action resolution through the council faltered early Tuesday when Third World members balked at what they charged was an attempt to press them into putting a U.N. umbrella over U.S., British and French naval operations already underway in the gulf.

The U.S. goal also has encountered reluctance from the Soviet Union and China, both permanent members of the council with the power to veto a resolution. While U.S. officials say they would settle for an abstention from China, they said Soviet backing is vital to putting an international stamp of approval on the idea that military action is permissible to ensure success of the sanctions against Iraq.

{Kuwait's exiled foreign minister, Sheik Sabah Ahmed Sabah, said today in Beijing that he received assurances from Premier Li Peng and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen that China will not veto the resolution, correspondent Lena H. Sun reported. "The Chinese position is that if China does not vote for this resolution, it will not vote against it, either," Sabah said.}

Several diplomatic sources said the council's five permanent members -- the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Britain and France -- had worked out a tentative new draft resolution. But, the sources stressed, it was not clear whether the new language would overcome the reservations of the Soviets and of the council's Third World members.

According to various sources, the Soviets have said the Security Council should not turn to military action unless there is proof of widespread violation of the embargo. The United States argues that it would take weeks to gather such information and that U.N. members should not have to wait that long before being empowered to interdict violators.

The Soviets also reportedly want any resolution to spell out in greater detail the meaning of "minimum force" and the conditions under which it could be employed.