President Bush worked to calm a sudden political squall over his Persian Gulf policy yesterday by reassuring nervous congressional leaders that he has not decided to use force against Iraq despite his move last week to almost double the size of the U.S. military deployment in the gulf region.

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) and House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) emerged from a 90-minute White House meeting to say the congressional leadership has no plans to call an emergency session of Congress to debate the gulf buildup, as some key lawmakers suggested Tuesday.

"The president's assertion is that this additional buildup does not reflect a decision to use offensive force, but to have the capability for such a decision," Foley said, adding, "The policy remains . . . the use of our forces there are for defensive purposes . . . and that has very, very strong bipartisan support in the Congress."

Mitchell added that Bush told the leaders the administration has made no decision on how long the international sanctions against Iraq might take to produce an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. "No conclusion has been reached that they {the sanctions} have either succeeded in achieving their objective or failed in achieving their objective," Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney yesterday formally authorized the activation of 72,500 more military reservists in the first step to fulfill the new gulf deployments. {Details on Page A32.} In another development, Saudi Arabia said that Morocco's call for an urgent Arab summit on the gulf crisis "will bear no fruit or results" unless Iraq agrees to withdraw from Kuwait. {Details on Page A30.}

The White House meeting with about two dozen congressional leaders yesterday was scheduled when Congress adjourned three weeks ago. But it took on a far broader purpose after a number of lawmakers began over the weekend to question publicly whether Bush was giving the sanctions imposed by the United Nations sufficient time to work and whether he had provided an adequate explanation for the injection of a massive new level of U.S. military force into the gulf.

On Tuesday, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) both suggested a special session of Congress might be needed to try to get Congress on the record in favor of the administration's policies. But members of both parties yesterday said such a session now would be unnecessary and probably unproductive.

"There is no support for it on either side," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.). "It would be just poor judgment to have it now," said Rep. William S. Broomfield (Mich), senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

During yesterday's meeting, Bush, Cheney and Secretary of State James A. Baker III all asserted that the additional military deployments were meant to convince Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of U.S. resolve and to put in place by early next year sufficient troop strength to make an offensive strike if a decision was made then to do so.

Several leaders quoted Bush as saying the deployments do not represent a decision that war is inevitable. "I have not crossed any Rubicon," the president was quoted as saying.

Baker said later that the additional deployments were part of an effort, along with new U.N. moves, to "lay an appropriate foundation" for the option of offensive military action if the White House decides to go that route later. That effort will continue this week when Bush leaves for an eight-day trip to Europe and the Middle East that will include extensive consultations with U.S. allies on gulf policy and a visit to the troops in Saudi Arabia. Baker, meanwhile, will continue testing support for a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force.

The State Department announced that Baker will meet in Geneva and Paris with members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the gulf crisis. He will go to Geneva on Saturday for talks with the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Zaire and Ivory Coast, and then meet in Paris on Sunday with the foreign ministers of other council members, including Finland, Romania, Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Bush arrived at yesterday's White House meeting armed with props to make two points: That the congressional debate over his policy was being described as lack of support for him in Baghdad, and that while he was willing to consult with Congress, he was commander-in-chief.

According to Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), Bush pulled out a report on Iraq news coverage of recent days and read headlines to impress on the leaders the effect of statements made in the United States. While Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) said such statements questioning the administration were making Saddam Hussein "jump for joy," Baker was more circumspect. "I think we have a mutual responsibility, executive and legislative . . . not to send mixed signals," he said in response to a question.

Despite polls showing declining U.S. support for Bush's handling of the gulf crisis, Baker also insisted that the president enjoys "substantial and broad support" for his policies.

A USA Today poll of 609 respondents taken Monday showed 51 percent approved of Bush's handling of the gulf crisis, a mark significantly lower than any other recent poll. Yesterday, Americans Talk Security, a nationwide polling project on foreign policy issues, reported a 62 percent approval rating in its poll. But even a 62 percent approval rating amounts to a 20-point drop in approval in just 10 weeks.

Bush also read to the group from a pocket-sized U.S. Constitution, citing references to his role as commander-in-chief. Baker acknowledged that the administration and Congress were engaged in a heated debate over when and if a declaration of war would be needed and whether the administration need comply with the War Powers Resolution, which sets limits on troop deployments without congressional authorization. The Bush administration, like that of Ronald Reagan, has ignored the measure, calling it unconstitutional.

Nearly three dozen liberal House Democrats, led by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (Calif.), want the federal courts to clarify what Bush must do under the Constitution. They plan to file a suit next week that would require congressional authorization before any offensive military action is ordered.

According to one official, Bush made clear during the White House meeting that he is unhappy with the spectacle of the past three days during which a number of congressional leaders appeared on television and in print attacking his policies and questioning his ability to sustain American and international support. "The president made clear this consultation business is a two-way street and if they expect him to consult, he expects them to tell him their concerns before they run to 'Good Morning America,' " said one official.

Later, Baker and Cheney traveled to Capitol Hill for meetings with senators on the gulf buildup, part of what an official called "damage-control day," efforts aimed at calming congressional fears that major moves are in the works without their knowledge.

These meetings left some Democratic lawmakers unconvinced about the need for the additional buildup in the gulf. Many said Bush has not given the United Nations-backed economic sanctions enough time to prove their effectiveness.

"They didn't say that the sanctions are not working, but concede it could take longer than some anticipated," said Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.).

Administration officials are now saying that the sanctions may take as long as 18 months to have any impact, some lawmakers said, and Foley told Bush at the leadership meeting that he should give them at least that long before moving to another option.

Dole did his best to put a positive face on the meetings. "We're sort of back on track again," he said. "You're seeing Congress and the president now back . . . supporting our mission in the gulf. I don't think Saddam Hussein should take any comfort."

Dole also said he wants the upcoming congressional hearings to be closed. "We're trying to determine a policy," he said. "It shouldn't be a circus."