President Bush, hoping for a meeting soon with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, is pursuing a compromise that would break a deadlock over a treaty to reduce conventional forces in Europe, U.S. sources say.

The sources said resolving the dispute over the conventional forces treaty, which was signed last November but never submitted for ratification, would clear the way to settlement of the last remaining differences on an even more ambitious accord, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).But presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Monday that if the START agreement isn't ready the White House would not hold a summit hostage to that long-sought accord.

"We are very concerned about the CFE (conventional forces in Europe) agreement, and I think it's fair to say we have to resolve major questions about that before we'd be ready to have a summit," Fitzwater said. But he told reporters he would not tie the same conditions to a START agreement.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, alluding to a recent exchange of messages between Bush and Gorbachev, said Monday, "I think we're making some progress" toward settling the dispute over terms of the conventional forces agreement.