President Bush saluted President Carlos S. Menem on Wednesday for quashing a military rebellion and said it demonstrated that "the days of violence and dictatorship" for Argentina are over.

Bush, at a news conference with Menem at the presidential palace, also praised Menem's move toward free market reforms to cure his country's hyperinflation, and applauded his support for the sanctions against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.The U.S. president also expressed doubt that direct talks between the United States and Iraq would produce a settlement of the Persian Gulf crisis.

"I'm not optimistic. I see no evidence that Saddam Hussein is ready to comply fully, without condition, with the U.N. resolutions," Bush said, referring to a string of demands by the world body for total Iraqi withdrawal from occupied Kuwait.

Bush reiterated that there will be no concessions for the Iraqi dictator and said there should be no effort to help Saddam find a face-saving way to pull his troops out of Kuwait.

Bush came to the Argentine capital Wednesday morning from Uruguay, midway through his five-country trek through South America. Just two days ago, bullets flew in Buenos Aires during a short-lived military rebellion.

But the troops, who took over the armed forces headquarters a short walk from the presidential palace, surrendered by day's end. It was the fourth military uprising in four years for Argentina's nascent democracy.

"Argentina helped lead the way in restoring democracy, and President Menem and the Argentine people proved again this week that they will not permit any group to return Argentina to the days of violence and dictatorship," said Bush. It was "a superb show of strength and commitment."

He said Menem has also been a leader in the continent's shift to free-market reforms and privatization of state-run industry, and he said, "I am very grateful for Argentina's strong leadership and support for the world's common purpose in the Persian Gulf."

Argentina has dispatched two warships to the gulf, the only Latin nation to join the international armada enforcing the United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

Menem praised Bush's Enterprise for the Americas initiative to spur free trade.