A White House spokesman Wednesday said it was "regrettable" that a joint statement by the United States and the Soviet Union was "misinterpreted" to indicate softened conditions for a cease-fire in the Persian Gulf war.

Press secretary Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that President Bush did not see the statement before it was formally announced after a three-hour meeting between Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh Tuesday evening."We're anxious that no one would think we're altering policy in any way," Fitzwater said, adding that the U.S. position continues to be that all Iraqi troops must leave Kuwait.

The statement said that there could be "a cessation of hostilities" if Iraq made "an unequivocal commitment to withdraw from Kuwait."

Baker and Bessmertnykh said that such a commitment "must be backed by immediate, concrete steps leading to full compliance with the (U.N.) Security Council resolutions."