New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D) may have his hands full with budget deficits and employee cutbacks, but he is not too busy to advise on the Persian Gulf crisis. On a brief speaking trip to California this week, he urged President Bush to avoid military threats and "try to negotiate our way out" of a showdown with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Saying war should be "the last possible resort," Cuomo was quoted by the Los Angeles Times yesterday as telling a Jewish charity group in Los Angeles: "You could negotiate something that gets them {the Iraqis} out of Kuwait for the most part, leaves them maybe a little bit on the water, leaves them a little bit of the oil, and then puts in a United Nations task force to go over the whole question of chemical weapons . . . and nuclear capacity."

Cuomo also said the United States should recognize that Saddam cannot meet the U.N. demands for complete withdrawal from Kuwait because he "could not survive in Iraq" if he capitulated.

Cuomo's comments echoed remarks made last Friday at Hofstra University in New York by former President Jimmy Carter, who also suggested negotiating a partial Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait as preferable to what he called a "massive, self-destructive, almost suicidal war."