BEIJING, NOV. 22 -- Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will fly to China on Friday for talks on the Persian Gulf crisis that are expected to focus on U.S. efforts to win international support for an attack on Iraqi forces, diplomats said.

Shevardnadze will meet his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, in the western Chinese city of Urumqi after spending tonight across the desert border in the Soviet city of Alma-Ata.

A Soviet embassy spokesman in Beijing confirmed that Shevardnadze would visit China, but had no details.

Of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with the power of veto, China has expressed the most reluctance to endorse using force to oust Iraq from Kuwait.

"Our position is clear cut," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Li Zhaoxing told reporters today.

"As long as there is a gleam of hope for a peaceful settlement, unremitting efforts should be continued toward this," he told a weekly news conference.

"This is a very serious and complicated issue which would have a major impact. So it must be handled with great care and should not be hurried through."

China has repeatedly denounced Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and called for an unconditional withdrawal. But at the same time it has criticized superpower intervention.

Qian met Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in Baghdad this month for talks, which apparently made no progress toward a settlement of the crisis. Beijing later denied press reports that Qian had warned Iraq that China would not veto a U.N. resolution on the use of force.

"The Chinese have not committed themselves to a position. They are keeping their options open," a Western diplomat said.

A Soviet source in Beijing said it was possible that both the Soviet Union and China would abstain on a use-of-force resolution.