UNITED NATIONS, NOV. 26 -- The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council today appeared in agreement on a U.S. call to authorize use of military force to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, but there was disagreement about whether the draft resolution should set a deadline of Jan. 1 or Jan. 15 for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw his forces.

Such a resolution, if passed, would not mean that allied forces would attack Iraq immediately as the deadline for withdrawal is passed. Rather, it would allow for the use of "all necessary means," implying the use of force, to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait anytime thereafter.

The Bush administration proposed Jan. 1 as the deadline. But the Soviet Union countered with Jan. 15, and diplomatic sources here said tonight that the later date seemed more likely to be chosen.

Soviet Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, while refusing to discuss specific dates, said, "The significance of this resolution is that it is a last chance for Saddam Hussein to comply with the wishes of the world community. It gives him a chance to think very seriously about things."

In Moscow, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev told Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that Iraq faces the consequences of a "tough resolution" in the Security Council if it does not withdraw from Kuwait. {Details on Page A16.}

U.S. officials said their primary goal is to get a U.N. stamp of approval for military operations against Iraq, if that approach appears unavoidable, and they are prepared to be flexible about the question of a deadline. As of tonight, the feeling among diplomats here was that the Security Council either will abandon the idea of a deadline or set one later than Jan. 1.

En route to Mexico, where President Bush is holding two days of meetings with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the United States remains optimistic about winning approval for a U.N. resolution setting a deadline, Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz reported.

Fitzwater said setting a date "lets Saddam Hussein know exactly what kind of time frame we're talking about," and "takes some of the uncertainty out of the situation." He said the exact date is "subject to negotiation."

After two weeks of intensive lobbying by Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the United States reportedly believes that a strong majority of the 15-nation Security Council is ready to back use of force. The U.S. hope is to have a resolution ready for a vote, tentatively on Thursday, at a council meeting attended by foreign ministers and presided over by Baker.

As originally offered, the operative part of the U.S. draft resolution "authorizes member states cooperating with the government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before Jan. 1, 1991, fully implements the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement the Security Council resolutions passed in response to Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait, and to restore international peace and security in the area."

It further "requests all states to provide appropriate support" for measures taken by U.N. member countries to force Iraq to obey the repeated calls made by the United Nations since Aug. 2 to withdraw from its smaller neighbor.

Tonight, after the permanent members conferred with council members in the Nonaligned Movement, language tentatively was added saying the council would "allow Iraq one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwill," to comply with earlier U.N. demands for peaceful withdrawal.

The other four permanent members of the council -- the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China -- were given copies of the U.S. draft over the weekend. Since each has the power to veto council resolutions, the first stage of back-room bargaining here always involves a search for consensus among the five.

By tonight, several proposed variations on the original draft were circulating here. U.S. officials estimated it will take about three days to shape the resolution into a final form acceptable to the five permanent members and able to attract support from a majority of the council. But, the officials added, the globe-trotting soundings that took Bush and Baker through Europe and the Middle East have convinced Washington that it can do substantially better than the nine votes needed to adopt a resolution.

The key to the U.S. strategy was to offer a resolution that makes no specific mention of "force" but relies on the phrase "all necessary means to uphold and implement {past} Security Council resolutions."

The most immediate problem encountered by the draft involves the ultimatum idea embodied in the Jan. 1 deadline. U.S. officials said that does not mean that the United States and its allies automatically would attack Iraqi forces if they remained in Kuwait after that time.

Instead, the sources said, the purpose of setting a deadline would be to put Saddam under the psychological pressure of knowing that after that date, the massive, U.S.-dominated coalition of forces in the Persian Gulf region would have a mandate from the international community to open hostilities against him at any time.

Initially, there were indications that the deadline idea might draw strong opposition from Third World countries. But sources here said tonight that there was a gathering consensus that some deadline should be set to underscore the "one final opportunity" idea of the proposed new language.

There also were signs that the Third World bloc might object to the language that talks of restoring "international peace and security in the region." Sources here said some countries fear that phrase could be used to justify military operations that would go beyond liberating Kuwait to invading Iraq in an attempt to overthrow Saddam and destroy his military capabilities.

U.S. officials appeared reasonably certain that by week's end, the draft resolution could command the votes of up to 13 council members. Of the permanent members, China's vote is unclear, although Beijing has indicated that, at a minimum, it will refrain from using its veto and abstain. Cuba and Yemen, an Arab state at the southern edge of the Saudi peninsula that opposes the presence of foreign forces in its region, are expected to abstain or vote against the resolution. U.S. concern over the gulf crisis produced a rare high-level meeting with Cuba on Sunday, the Associated Press reported. Undersecretary of State Robert Kimmitt, third-ranking official at the State Department, met with Jose Arbesu, chief of Cuba's U.N. diplomatic mission.