Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze met Monday in the first of five planned sessions to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis, humanitarian aid for the Soviet Union and possible dates for a superpower summit.

The two days of talks primarily are aimed at setting the groundwork for an arms pact to be signed next year by President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.But Baker and Shevardnadze also were expected to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis, possible aid to the Soviets and other issues.

Speaking with reporters prior to the meeting, Shevardnadze said humanitarian aid for his economically struggling nation would be discussed.

"We would appreciate it, probably some food supplies. That is the most key problem and, of course, efficient economic operations," Shevardnadze said through an interpreter.

Baker said Bush has been considering food and medical aid to the Soviets.

"He (Bush) also has expressed an interest, and indeed a willingness, to be of assistance to the Soviet Union as they make this transition from one (economic) system to another," Baker said. "It's a transition that's not simple. It's indeed quite difficult. It's something that hasn't been done before. I know the president will be very forthcoming in assistance and trying to help."

But Baker noted legal restrictions dating back to just after World War II limit economic aid the United States can provide to the Soviets.