MOSCOW, FEB. 17 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who will hold critical talks here Monday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, is trying to score diplomatic points with the West and the Middle East and restore some luster to his badly tarnished image as a peacemaker.

Although the Persian Gulf War is being waged close to his southwestern borders and hard-liners in the military and Communist Party are complaining loudly that he sold out Iraq, a reliable ally, in favor of the "neo-colonial" West, Gorbachev appears determined to support the U.S.-led alliance against Baghdad. Analysts and diplomats here said the Soviet leader is unlikely to welcome any peace proposal from Aziz that would anger the Bush administration.

"Gorbachev knows that his reputation as a peacemaker and a democrat is not nearly what it was in Washington, especially after the military operations in the Baltic states," said foreign-policy specialist Andrei Kortunov, referring to bloody clashes between Soviet troops and civilians in Lithuania and Latvia last month. "He needs to show his cooperation with the West to downplay the obviously hard-line turn in his domestic policy."

Kortunov, as well as other Soviet analysts and Arab diplomats here, said he believes that Aziz may clarify the extent of Iraqi's willingness to withdraw from Kuwait during the meeting, but that he also is likely to propose conditions designed both to buy time and to drive a wedge between Moscow and the anti-Iraq coalition.

But Kuwait's ambassador to Moscow, Abdulmohsin Duaij, said: "I was in the session when our foreign minister met with Gorbachev {Thursday}, and Gorbachev gave us a crystal-clear message. If the Iraqis think they are going to pull anything, they are wrong. Gorbachev told us, 'This is {the Iraqis'} last chance with us.' "

Aziz, who arrived in Moscow Sunday night, was quoted en route as saying he would not offer any new proposals for peace. "We have taken our step, and now is the turn of the other side to show its good will," he said in Tehran before boarding a special Aeroflot flight for Moscow, according to Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Aziz was referring to a peace proposal that Iraq offered Friday, which included conditions for the withdrawal of troops from Kuwait. It was quickly rejected by the U.S.-led multinational coalition.

Military and party hard-liners would like to see Gorbachev abandon the ties he forged with Washington just one day after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. Orthodox Communists, who have accused Gorbachev of selling out Eastern Europe and undermining the Soviet Union's position as a superpower, now fear the loss of a strategic ally in the Persian Gulf.

"The conservatives are obviously more powerful than they were a year ago, but Gorbachev has too much to lose if he suddenly changes his position," said Giorgi Mirsky, a Middle East analyst at the Institute for the World Economy and International Relations here.

At the same time, the Soviet Union is also trying to determine its role and influence in the Persian Gulf region after the war ends.

Even as he has won President Bush's public confidence that he would remain a steadfast supporter of the alliance, Gorbachev has kept his troops out of the war and carefully distanced himself from Washington's military strategy in the Middle East, expressing concern that the bombing of Iraq could be a step beyond the alliance's U.N. mandate to drive the Iraqis from Kuwait.

Mikhail Yusin, a commentator with the government newspaper Izvestia, explained Gorbachev's strategy in terms of concrete national interest. No matter what the outcome in the gulf, he said, Washington's relations with the Arab world will worsen.

"And in these conditions," Yusin added, the Soviet Union "will have the opportunity to strengthen its influence in a strategically important region. For this, it is essential now, in the heat of war, to support dialogue with Baghdad and distance itself from the actions of Washington."

From 1945 to the fall of the shah of Iran in 1978, the United States' closest gulf allies were Saudi Arabia and Iran; the Soviet Union's was Iraq. In Cold War terms, power was fairly evenly balanced. But since the Iranian revolution and the rise of Gorbachev in 1985, superpower interests in the region have been in flux.

Despite hard-liner objections, Moscow has reestablished, or at least greatly improved, relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran and Egypt. Future relations with Iran will be especially important, and Moscow has kept in constant contact with Tehran throughout the crisis.

The end of Cold War animosities may have been a crucial reason why Iraq thought it could invade Kuwait with impunity. "Iraq looked around and thought that the old risk of a Soviet-armed country taking over a Western-backed country would be gone," said Judith Kipper, a Middle East scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Obviously, they were wrong."

The scale of Iraq's miscalculation was evident when then-foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze immediately forged an alliance with Secretary of State James A. Baker III at Moscow's Vnukovo airport and later when Moscow endorsed U.N. Resolution 678 authorizing "all necessary means" to force Iraq's withdrawl from Kuwait.

Following the war, Moscow is also likely to "look more skeptically" at traditional allies such as Yemen, Libya and the Palestine Liberation Organization, analysts here said.

"The feeling {in the leadership} is that those states and the PLO can't really be trusted," Kortunov said. "There is also the sense that there should be a greater accent on better relations with the gulf states, provided they move toward more democratization and toward a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Arab conflicts," Kortunov said.

Some Kremlin leaders, including Moscow's special envoy on gulf matters, Yevgeny Primakov, have said the Soviet Union still may be able to reestablish relations with Iraq after the war. Primakov, who has met with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein three times since the invasion of Kuwait, is said to support a Soviet position that would somehow allow the Iraqi leader to withdraw his forces without suffering politically.