ORLANDO, FLA., NOV. 1 -- President Bush said today he is "not trying to prepare our country for war" with Iraq but emphasized anew his outrage at the treatment of U.S. hostages in Iraq and Kuwait and acknowledged that a diplomatic solution to the crisis is no nearer.

"I don't think the status quo can go on forever," Bush said, and added, "I don't know how long is long enough" to wait for U.N. economic sanctions alone to force Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, which it invaded Aug. 2.

For the fourth day in a row, Bush put strong emphasis on the gulf crisis and the situation of American hostages. He made his remarks at two campaign stops for Republican candidates in Massachusetts in the morning, then again here, where he flew on Air Force One for an afternoon political appearance and a news conference before flying to Ohio tonight.

Bush said he had aggressively raised the issue of the treatment of Americans held hostage simply to keep the gulf crisis in focus and not as a campaign ploy to improve GOP election chances.

At his news conference here, Bush said it was a "little bit awkward because we are a few days before an election and I want to continue to work for Republican candidates."

But he said he wanted the American people to know his position on the gulf, where more than 210,000 U.S. troops are now deployed, together with more than 100,000 foreign soldiers.

"I am not trying to sound the tocsin of war, but I am trying to point out the concerns that I feel," he said.

Bush answered with a curt "no" when asked today if he had sent confusing messages with his statements Wednesday that he had "had it" with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's treatment of the Americans but still planned to give the international sanctions more time to work in resolving the crisis peacefully.

"I don't think there is any inconsistency," Bush said. "I wrote down the various things that I said on this subject for some time and they are quite consistent."

Bush insisted he was "not trying to prepare our country for war" but then said, "the sand is running through the glass" in terms of the time available for the sanctions to work. Asked if the United States were any closer to a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Bush said, "I don't see that; I don't see that we are."

And in an even harsher assessment of the Iraqi leader than earlier, Bush suggested in an early-morning speech in the Boston suburbs that Saddam's holding of Americans as shields against attack at strategic installations in Iraq was even beneath Adolf Hitler.

Asked if Saddam had done anything even approaching the Holocaust in its horror, Bush later defended the original statement, saying, "Hitler did not stake people out against potential military targets, and he did . . . respect the legitimacy of the embassies."

The president would not say whether the United States is preparing to resupply the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, noting only that he is "hopeful" the U.N. resolution calling for such resupply would be successful. Bush also dismissed as a ploy Saddam's offer to allow relatives of Americans being held to visit at Christmas.

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the Kuwait embassy situation is a "turning point" because Bush will have to decide "at some point" whether to resupply the diplomats. He said the White House is not correcting and may be encouraging conflicting reports on how long the embassy can hold out. "We don't want {Saddam} to know," he said. "There is a game being played here."

Bush said his policy is to "ensure the security and stability of the gulf" and that the presence of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons affects that. "I don't think the goalposts are being moved," he said. "I think it's just simply a statement of reality."

While Bush said new "security arrangements" would have to be in place in the gulf before the United States would withdraw, he said he was not saying that the United States had to remove or somehow make inoperative the Iraqi weapons.