President Bush, in his annual New Year's greeting to Moscow, praised the Soviet Union for its strong stand in the Persian Gulf crisis and for its efforts to undertake difficult political and economic reform.

The message to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was transmitted to the Kremlin by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. A reciprocal message was expected from Gorbachev.The text of the message from Bush reads:

"It's a great pleasure to wish President and Mrs. Gorbachev and all the peoples of the Soviet Union a happy and healthy New Year. In your country, and in mine, the start of a New Year is a good time to reflect on the many achievements of the past and to look ahead with hope.

"This year our two countries, as well as those around the world, have much to be grateful for. First and foremost, the improved and strengthened relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Our countries have made great progress, particularly in important political and arms control areas. And we've taken a common approach to a new challenge in the name of stability and peace. I applaud, the world applauds, the decisive action of the Soviet Union in strongly opposing Saddam Hussein's brutal aggression in the gulf.

"But just as important as these new areas of cooperation between our two nations are the increased contacts between the Americans and Soviet peoples. Tens of thousands of Soviets have had contact with Americans now, and the numbers are growing. Barbara and I are thrilled to see our two peoples meeting and getting to know one another as friendly neighbors.

"On this New Year's Day, as you celebrate with your friends and family, I also want to applaud the Soviet Union for the important steps you've taken in building a new society, for the determination with which you are pressing forward with difficult political and economic reforms. It's an arduous journey, but one well worth making, for it is a path that leads to a brighter future for your nation.

"The American people look with hope to the year ahead. Our two nations have set out on a new course making a better life for both our peoples and a better world of peace and understanding.

"On behalf of the American people, I wish President Gorbachev and all the wonderful people of the Soviet Union a happy, prosperous New Year."