U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told President Bush he had received "a very clear rejection" Thursday from Baghdad to a U.S.-backed proposal for a U.N. police force in northern Iraq.

Perez de Cuellar, meeting with Bush on a range of postwar issues, said he has not made up his own mind on the proposal.Bush on Wednesday told a news conference, "I would hope the U.N. could do in the north that which they're doing in the south," where a U.N. peacekeeping force has replaced allied troops.

U.S. officials have expressed support for a British proposal for a U.N. civilian police force to help protect displaced Kurds in northern Iraq.

Bush has said he does not want to get bogged down in the north now that the last U.S. troops have left southern Iraq. He declined to answer questions at the picture-taking session.

Perez de Cuellar, asked if he hoped all U.S. troops would soon be out of northern Iraq, said, "I think that is the wish of our American friends and as well as the wish of the United Nations, that's for sure." But, he added, "I think we have to be patient."