President Bush yesterday accused Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of being uninterested in a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis and said the United States would not yield "one single inch" in its demands that Iraq withdraw completely from Kuwait.

Bush seized virtually every opportunity open to him yesterday, including a photo opportunity, a meeting with ambassadors and a domestic announcement, to use some of his strongest language yet to convince Saddam that the United States is serious about resorting to force after Jan. 15 if Iraq has not withdrawn totally from Kuwait.

Officials said the president, in a phone conversation over the weekend with Turkish President Turgut Ozal, was told again that the Iraqi leader does not believe Bush has the will or the support of the American people to launch military action, particularly if Saddam makes some conciliatory move.

Bush referred to that conversation early yesterday when he said he was being told that the Iraqi leader, watching the political debate in the United States, "thinks it means that our country is divided and that we cannot go forward to do our part . . . ." Saddam, said Bush, "simply does not understand that debate in our country . . . . He is just as wrong as he can be."

In Brussels yesterday, Secretary of State James A. Baker III warned a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that Saddam may try a last-minute "partial-withdrawal ploy." The ministers, in a bluntly worded statement, then signaled Iraq that anything short of a full pullout from Kuwait would mean war.

"There can be no partial solutions," the alliance statement said, adding that NATO members would support using force if Iraq failed to withdraw. The allies also supported Bush's call for face-to-face talks with Saddam to "provide Iraq . . . with the clearest possible understanding of the consequences" of remaining in Kuwait after the Jan. 15 deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

Bush, speaking to a group of ambassadors whose nations are contributing either forces or money to the military buildup in the gulf, said they were "living proof" that the coalition against Iraq "remains deep and wide." In written remarks delivered with the 28 ambassadors standing behind him in the Rose Garden, Bush noted that the United Nations has authorized that "all necessary means be used after Jan. 15" to ensure enforcement of U.N. resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Iraqi troops and the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate authorities.

"None of us wants war, but none of us is prepared to accept a partial solution," Bush said. Summing up what he said was his main message to the governments of the 28 nations represented in the group, the president added: "The United States remains steadfast and will remain steadfast in its determination to see every single United Nations resolution on this subject fulfilled without concession, without yielding one single inch."

"I think we should anticipate that as we draw close to {the} . . . Jan. 15 deadline, Saddam Hussein is likely to try to undercut the collective will of the international community to use force," Baker said in the opening session of the two-day NATO meeting. "Just as I believe he chose to release hostages for this purpose, I think he may take a dramatic step on or around Jan. 15. He could withdraw partially.

"We have all agreed that partial solutions or outcomes . . . are unacceptable. We need to anticipate Saddam's possible moves, be prepared for a partial-withdrawal ploy, and coordinate closely our responses," he added.

Despite Baker's remarks, a senior U.S. official in Brussels said there was "no specific intelligence" that Saddam was planning a partial withdrawal.

In Moscow, meanwhile, the Soviet Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it was ready to compensate Baghdad for the severance of work contracts to secure the release of more than 2,500 Soviet citizens still detained in Iraq. Iraq promised on Dec. 4 that it would allow all Soviet citizens to leave.

Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitaly Churkin said Moscow might have its own claims against Iraq for disruption of contracts as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2. The Soviet Union was Iraq's main superpower patron and arms supplier until the invasion.

"We would be prepared to pay to get our people out of Iraq," Churkin told reporters, adding that the precise settlement of accounts between Baghdad and Moscow remained to be negotiated. A Soviet delegation began talks in Baghdad yesterday to attempt to settle the quarrel over the stranded Soviets.

Yesterday was to have been the day Bush received Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, but the meeting was postponed indefinitely after U.S. and Iraqi officials failed to agree on a date for a reciprocal visit to Baghdad by Baker. Officials said the United States gave Baghdad on Sunday an official diplomatic message that amounted to a reiteration of the White House position that the meetings occur by Jan. 3.

Bush declined to say yesterday whether he would agree to a later date. But he said that Saddam's refusal to accept an earlier date to see Baker "underscores what I think is {Iraq's} lack of interest in a peaceful settlement of the crisis."

One senior official suggested the administration still believes the meetings with Aziz and Saddam will occur but not before the year ends. Officials insisted yesterday that no new dates have been proposed in diplomatic exchanges and that the issue, as one put it, "is in their {Baghdad's} court."

In Baghdad yesterday, the senior U.S. diplomat, U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires Joseph Wilson, and Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Nizar Hamdoon met to discuss the dispute over the U.S.-Iraqi talks. The Iraqi leadership said in a statement yesterday that Baghdad rejected "the dictation of dates" for a meeting with the United States and insisted it would never give up Kuwait, the official Iraqi News Agency said.

European foreign ministers are expected to meet today after the NATO meeting to reconsider an invitation to Aziz to meet in Rome next week with Italian Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis. De Michelis, who would be the one to meet with Aziz because Italy now holds the chair of the European Community's rotating presidency, told reporters that the invitation had been extended with the understanding that Aziz would first meet with Bush in Washington. With the Washington meeting now on hold, several ministers and other officials indicated the meeting is unlikely to occur.

Bush, in a morning news conference, said he was less concerned about the back and forth over possible dates for meetings -- what he called "these various counterploys coming out of Baghdad" -- than he was by Saddam's statements that "fly directly in the face of United Nations actions." That was a reference to Saddam's continued insistence on calling Kuwait a province of Iraq.

While Bush did not state directly he would launch a military strike on Jan. 16, he said, "I think that at midnight, if he's not totally out of Kuwait, the U.N. sanctions will be fulfilled." Saddam, he said, "ought to look at the movement of force, and he ought to draw the conclusion that he ought to get out without concession."

Asked why Saddam should not think the situation ambiguous unless Bush says directly he would launch a strike on Jan. 16, the president said: "We're not in a threatening mode. We are in a . . . mode that he should get out without concession . . . . No concession, no negotiation for one inch of territory."

Bush said he is working under the assumption that "at some point" Saddam realizes "that this force, which is overwhelming, that is now being arrayed against him, would be devastating."

Bush received some fresh support yesterday for his position on the Jan. 15 deadline from 14 former government officials, including some top national security experts, who warned against delaying military action beyond that date if Saddam has not withdrawn.

Retired Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Robert F. Ellsworth, a former deputy secretary of defense, released a letter that they and 12 others sent to Aziz saying they oppose waiting an extended period beyond the U.N. deadline. The 14 said in their letter that while some witnesses in congressional hearings have urged more time for economic sanctions to wear down Saddam, the 14 believe "such misguided views should not stand in the way of the use of all necessary means" to enforce the Jan. 15 deadline.

At the White House yesterday, Bush also hosted W. Nathaniel Howell, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait who left the occupied country last week only after the last American hostages had departed Kuwait and Iraq. The president opened a picture-taking session with Howell by saying he hoped for "wide circulation" of a new report by Amnesty International on the treatment of Kuwaitis by Iraqi troops, so that Americans "will understand" the urgency of his concerns.

Devroy reported from Washington and Kamen from Brussels. Correspondent Michael Dobbs contributed from Moscow.