Eduard Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister, said his country needs an extension of U.S. food credits to derail threats to democratic reform.

Shevardnadze told the annual meeting of the Food Marketing Institute that economic reforms in the Soviet Union have stalled but predicted legislative action to introduce price reform and the conversion of the ruble to an exchange currency will help get the reforms back on track.After meeting with President Bush and congressional leaders in Washington, Shevardnaze advanced his case to the Chicago session of FMI, which represents the retail grocery industry.

He pleaded for U.S. support to deter what he called, "The Soviet slide into a state of chaos and the very real danger of establishing a new dictator and a new totalitarian government in the Soviet Union."

Admitting the next few months are critical in the maintenance of reforms, the Soviet leader asked Americans to be patient and understanding of the Russian paradox.

"We thought, as we began in 1985, that we were beginning only a slight repair on a building that had been under construction for the last 70 years."

The process, however, extended well beyond the abandonment of old ideas.

"We had to remake our way of thinking, to come up with a whole new set of views. This change created conflict in the minds of the political leaders, and in the minds of every individual. Little by little, we are getting through that. It is the only option we have; we will have a peaceful revolution or a bloody one."

Shevnardnadze noted the loss of one-third of the annual grain harvest in his country, a statistic that could be improved by the application of U.S. technology.

The Soviet also said his country is the biggest oil producer in the world but suggested that American expertise could increase Soviet oil production 20 percent to 25 percent.

He challenged the FMI audience to become involved in a joint effort to sustain democratic reforms in his country.