Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Belonogov flew to Tehran Tuesday to discuss Iranian initiatives for resolving the gulf war, the Foreign Ministry said.

Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, meanwhile, arrived in Moscow and met with Soviet Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov to discuss the war, the official Tass news agency reported.Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Churkin said Belonogov wanted to sound out Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani on his ideas for settling the conflict between Iraqi troops in Kuwait and the U.S.-led international force in Saudi Arabia.

In Tehran, Rafsanjani said he was prepared to meet with both Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and U.S. officials if the talks could help bring peace to the gulf.

Rafsanjani reiterated Iran's neutrality in the war, which pits two longtime adversaries of Tehran against each other. Envoys from several countries visited Iran last week after Iraqi planes began flying there to seek refuge from allied attacks.

"As you know, lately Iraq has become the focus of initiatives concerning the resolution of this crisis," Churkin told reporters in Moscow.

"As of now we only know that Iranian President Raf-sanjani has expressed several ideas to which he would like to hear reaction from the president of Iraq," Churkin said. "We do not know for sure what those ideas are."

Churkin, noting that Belonogov's trip is "by mutual initiative," said that Iran has helped Moscow evacuate Soviet citizens from Iraq and Kuwait.

Asked whether Belonogov would carry a message to Iran from President Mikhail Gorbachev, Churkin responded, "Let's first give him a chance to get on the plane, and then we will discuss what message he is taking with him."

He said that Belonogov would remain in Tehran "as long as it takes."

Belonogov, a career envoy with extensive diplomatic experience in the Middle East, has made several trips to the region in unsuccessful attempts to resolve the conflict spawned by Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

The Soviet Union has backed the United States in the gulf conflict and supported a dozen increasingly strong U.N. measures against Iraq, but Moscow has recently expressed concern over the scope of the war.