MOSCOW, SEPT. 6 -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said today that Baghdad would welcome a more active role by the Soviet Union in finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the Persian Gulf.

Addressing a news conference here after meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Aziz described the Soviet Union as a friendly power and said Soviet citizens are free to leave Iraq. He contrasted Moscow's willingness to receive Iraqi envoys with what he depicted as U.S. intransigence in handling the crisis.

Baghdad's overture to Moscow, three days before an informal U.S.-Soviet summit in Helsinki, appeared aimed at undermining the anti-Iraqi coalition that has taken shape since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. Western diplomats here, however, said there is no evidence of any weakening in the Kremlin's position on the crisis or its support for international sanctions against Iraq.

Aziz denied speculation that he had asked Gorbachev to pass on a message from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to President Bush. But he said Iraq is interested in further consultations with the Soviet Union, its former superpower patron and principal arms supplier, after Sunday's Helsinki summit.

"If the Soviet government would like to play a more active role {in working out a compromise}, this role would be welcomed by Iraq," said Aziz, who had an apparently unsuccessful meeting last week with United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov, meanwhile, told reporters that Gorbachev may discuss with Bush the idea of sending a U.N. military force to the gulf. "We may have to go back to the U.N. Charter and revive certain clauses of this charter, in particular the clause about the Military Staff Committee . . . which may have armed forces -- international armed forces -- at its disposal," Gerasimov said.

In a speech on Tuesday, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze suggested that a U.N. peace-keeping force might replace Iraqi troops in Kuwait while an inter-Arab force replaced U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Gerasimov did not spell out the mission of a U.N. force in his comments today.

Gerasimov rejected Iraqi attempts to link a solution to the gulf crisis with other Middle East problems, saying this would "put off solution of the conflict in question indefinitely." But he added that there was "an element of truth" in Iraq's contention that the U.N. Security Council should implement all its resolutions, including a demand that Israel withdraw from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Iraq's Aziz, in reiterating Baghdad's offer to consider withdrawing from Kuwait in the context of negotiations on an overall Middle East peace settlement, praised the Soviet Union for its "constructive" stance on the Palestinian problem. Aziz, a member of Iraq's Christian minority, accused Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of being "bad Christians" and "hypocrites" because their concern for a few "rich sheiks" in Kuwait was not matched by a concern for poor Palestinians.

Western diplomats here believe that the Kremlin's willingness to engage Baghdad in a dialogue is motivated in part by concern for the safety of the 6,000 Soviet citizens in Iraq, including teachers, doctors and a small contingent of military advisers. The Soviet community in Iraq is down from about 8,000 before the gulf crisis. "It is a lot, and we are very concerned," said Gerasimov, welcoming Aziz's statement that they are free to leave, which he described as "good news" and "a kind of insurance."

Before Aziz's visit to Moscow, the Soviets in Iraq appeared to be in the same position as Westerners. Today, however, the Iraqi foreign minister said the restrictions applied to other foreigners did not apply to Soviets. "They can stay in our country or leave it," he said.