Secretary of State James A. Baker III said yesterday that although the United States "fundamentally disagrees" with King Hussein of Jordan's harsh criticism of the war against Iraq, alternatives to Hussein are not "particularly pretty" and it is important to keep communications with the king open.

After Baker's comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State Department officials said that military and economic aid to Jordan was being reviewed in light of the king's speech Wednesday attacking "the savage and large-scale war against brotherly Iraq." The officials said the administration will have to decide whether to respond to Hussein's abandonment of neutrality by cutting the approximately $50 million in aid that had been planned for Jordan this year.

In his testimony, Baker made clear that the Bush administration is both saddened by and annoyed at the increasingly emotional support shown for Iraq by Jordan, which had been counted with Egypt and Saudi Arabia as the United States's principal allies in the Arab world.

Jordan, whose territory is the buffer between Israel and Iraq, has tilted toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein throughout the six-month Persian Gulf crisis. Jordan's longstanding economic and strategic ties to Iraq and the fact that the majority of its 3.3 million inhabitants are Palestinians who ardently support Saddam's championing of their cause against Israel have influenced Jordan's position.

"We find it very sad that the king omitted in his rather long speech any reference whatsoever to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and omitted any reference to any call for withdrawal," Baker said.

"We try to understand the pressure that the king is under, and he is under quite a bit of pressure," Baker added in apparent reference to the pro-Iraqi sentiment among the king's subjects. "He's on the wrong side and we have a major disagreement here with him.

"But when we look at alternatives we don't see what we perceive to be a particularly pretty picture -- alternatives to the king -- and we think it's important to keep our lines of communication open and to make clear to him and his government that we fundamentally disagree with his position."

Asked whether there would be a change in aid policy toward Jordan, Baker replied that he had told the House Wednesday there would not be. Later, however, department officials revealed that special attention would be paid to Jordan in the process, now underway, of allocating the $14.5 billion in foreign aid the administration has requested for fiscal 1992.

The officials said both the decision to review the aid and Baker's remarks about "understanding" Hussein's situation were reflective of an internal administration debate that has gone on since the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. According to these sources, one faction argues that Hussein should be brought to account for violating United Nations sanctions against Iraq and giving its neighbor other forms of barely disguised help throughout the crisis.

Until now, however, that argument has been countered successfully by officials who say Jordan is in a state of chaos because of the frustrations of its Palestinian population and the financial hardships that have been forced on the country by both a massive influx of refugees from Kuwait and the disruption of commerce with Iraq, its biggest trading partner.

These officials argue that punitive U.S. steps could result in the king's ouster by forces far more radical. "You could wind up with Jordan becoming the People's Republic of Palestine with George Habash {leader of an extremist Palestinian faction} as president," one senior U.S. official said.

That, the official added, would not be in the interest of the United States, its moderate Arab allies or even Israel. One of the principal U.S. goals in dissuading Israel from retaliating against Iraqi missile attacks has been to keep Jordan from being drawn into the war by clashing with Israeli warplanes crossing its airspace to attack Iraq.

However, he and other officials acknowledged, the vehemence of Hussein's latest statements at a time when U.S. troops are dying in combat against Iraq might force the administration to conclude that it must take a retaliatory action such as cutting the contemplated package of approximately $30 million in economic aid and $20 million in military assistance.