This past week offered a telling example of the George Bush-Jim Baker style in foreign policy: a dual-track diplomatic dash across four continents during which, despite a series of high-visibility meetings, the president and his secretary of state managed to keep their cards very close to the vest.

The main goal of the trip was to reinvigorate the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq and to lobby members of the United Nations Security Council to support a U.N. resolution that would authorize the use of force to drive Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait. As so often in the past, the two U.S. officials played the roles of Mr. Outside and Mr. Inside.

While President Bush held center stage, using the public spotlight in an attempt to make his case against Saddam, Secretary of State James A. Baker III worked backstage in a relentless effort to line up votes to pass a tough U.N. initiative, preferably by the end of the month when the United States ends its stint as president of the Security Council.

Bush at one point described Baker as, in effect, his ace in the hole. He said at a press conference in Paris that his confidence that the Soviets would eventually support the U.N. resolution "stemmed from the fact that Jim Baker and {Soviet Foreign Minister} Eduard Shevardnadze had hammered out a lot of the difficulties" despite the Soviets' apparent public reluctance.

How well the Bush-Baker road show succeeded will become clear this week, when the secret diplomacy gives way to a public U.N. debate on the resolution.

The United States last night began distributing to the other four permanent members of the Security Council a draft of a proposed resolution that would permit the use of military force to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, staff writer John M. Goshko reported.

Diplomatic sources said the draft resolution does not specifically use the word "force." Instead, the sources said, it is their understanding that the U.S. draft seeks to avoid objections to that term by using such phrases as "all necessary means" or "measures commensurate to the specific circumstances" necessary to enforce U.N. decisions.

In that respect, the sources noted, the draft is modeled closely on the resolution adopted by the council Aug. 25 authorizing U.N. members participating in the Persian Gulf naval blockade to use necessary measures to halt ships bound to and from Iraq and Kuwait.

According to the sources, the State Department began circulating the draft last night to the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China in preparation for intensive, informal discussions beginning at the United Nations on Monday among the five permanent council members.

At the request of the exiled government of Kuwait, the United Nations will also hold public hearings Monday and Tuesday on Iraq's treatment of Kuwait and Kuwaiti citizens since the Aug. 2 invasion.

Reporters traveling with Bush got a preview of the hearings last Wednesday when he met with the emir of Kuwait, now living in Saudi Arabia. Photographs of bloodied and dismembered bodies and bombed-out homes were handed out and displayed for the press.

As the hearings proceed, U.S. officials, with Baker leading the action, are expected to work the corridors and meeting rooms of the United Nations formulating the language of the new U.S.-sponsored resolution against Saddam.

The work of producing compromise language that would gather enough votes in the Security Council has been Baker's preoccupation for two weeks and sent the secretary from Paris to Yemen to South America in search for a formula that will pull the international community together against Iraq for the 11th time in the United Nations.

Baker concluded his end of the U.S. lobbying effort yesterday in Bogota, where he failed to win clear support from Colombian leaders for a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Colombia, a Latin American representative on the Security Council, agreed that use of force should not be ruled out. But Colombian officials argued that all diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis had not been explored and said that any resolution would be "studied carefully" before Colombia took a final position, Washington Post special correspondent Douglas Farah reported from Bogota.

Baker then flew to Los Angeles for talks with representatives of Malaysia and finally to Houston, where sources said he gave the green light to proceed with the draft resolution.

Baker's efforts, like much of what the administration does on the international diplomatic front, were mostly made in secret. He had made it clear that until he was assured that the United States had the votes for a resolution, he would neither admit there was one, nor write out the language of any draft that could become public and susceptible to attack and failure.

Baker may be relatively new to the field of international vote-counting, but he has spent a career in Washington counting votes. His efforts during the past month bear a striking resemblance to his first prominent job 15 years ago, when he made the deals and compromises that produced the delegate votes for President Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican primary contest against Ronald Reagan.

Since then, Baker has counted the votes in three presidential contests and in countless legislative battles. Virtually all of it has been done relentlessly, methodically and in private.

Asked about the diplomatic maneuvering, Bush said on Tuesday, "When you are dealing with the technicalities of diplomacy and each is trying to see the other's, understand where the other heartbeat is, I can only tell you . . . the process is going forward."

Meanwhile, Baker had just concluded more than a dozen hours of talks with Shevardnadze over three days in Paris aimed at producing language that would authorize U.N. member nations to use force against Saddam. He had also spoken by phone with Chinese and other key leaders.

From Paris, Baker continued on to consult with a half-dozen other nations on the resolution; Shevardnadze went to China to consult with officials there; and the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union announced in unison that such a resolution, still undefined, was needed.

By week's end, Bush was predicting success. "We're very, very close" to a new resolution, he said, although others suggested its language may not be as tough as the United States had sought.

Bush said one key issue -- whether to set a deadline for Saddam to comply -- remained undecided. And diplomats from several nations said it still was not clear whether the resolution would specifically refer to the use of force against Saddam.

The United States needs agreement, or at least a pledge not to veto, from all five permanent members of the Security Council. The Soviet and Chinese votes are considered contingent on the language of the resolution, which will be taken up in New York at mid-week by the foreign ministers from the full 15-nation council.

Paralleling the effort to win support for the resolution has been Bush's public case against Saddam, made during the past week in virtually every forum available to him as he traveled from Czechoslovakia to Paris to Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Geneva and home Saturday.

Addressing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, Bush gave what aides called the "one-two-three" speech, an effort to state simply for American consumption the reasons why making Saddam back down is worth the risk to about 400,000 Americans who will be in place in the gulf by February.

"Simply put," Bush said, "we are here to guarantee that freedom is protected and that Iraq's aggression will not be rewarded." The nation's security is at risk, he said, "from the potential economic blackmail of a gulf dominated by a power-hungry Iraq." And finally, he said, "innocent lives are at stake," a reference to the Americans held hostage in Kuwait and Iraq.

Bush, whether by design or not, offered public displays of growing impatience with the stalemate in the gulf. "We are getting tired of the status quo and so is the rest of the world," he said Friday.

The urgency to Bush's tone and his sudden public warnings about Iraq's effort to develop nuclear weapons did not mean he has decided to use force, his aides said. The performance was meant in part to send a new message to Saddam of the seriousness of U.S. purpose, aides said.

The reaction in the Arab world to Bush's trip suggested that the new pattern of alliances that has emerged since Aug. 2 may endure long after the gulf crisis is past, The Post's Caryle Murphy reported from Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.

Bush's visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and a meeting with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Geneva, came under attack in the Jordanian and Palestinian press, while Baker's request to Yemen for support during the U.N. debate was rebuffed. These reactions came from Iraq's Arab allies, and were not unexpected.

But Bush's trip reinforced U.S. links with its Arab allies, Murphy reported. Arab analysts said that whatever the outcome of the gulf crisis, Saudi Arabia has indicated it is likely to maintain a close strategic relationship with the United States.

Cooperation between Cairo and Washington, already allies, has deepened recently. In a symbol of this relationship, Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stood side-by-side at a press conference broadcast live on Egyptian television.

Even the new link with Syria could be lasting, Arab diplomats said. Having lost its special relationship as Moscow's most favored Arab ally, Damascus wants a fuller relationship with the United States for economic and political reasons.