President Mikhail Gorbachev said Wednesday it is in the West's best interest to come up with billions of dollars in assistance to help the Soviet Union through its economic crisis.

It would be an international catastrophe if the Soviet Union could no longer play a role as a strong and reliable pillar of a peaceful world order because of its deteriorating economy, he said.Gorbachev said that if he gets a chance to argue his case before the leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, he will say their people need perestroika to succeed as much as Soviets do.

The money is worth it for world stability, Gorbachev said during a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.

The Soviet leader hopes to persuade Andreotti to champion Moscow's cause with the G-7.

Gorbachev said he hopes to get an invitation to the July summit meeting in London of the G-7 countries - the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

But senior U.S. officials in Washington said President Bush is reluctant to invite Gorbachev because he believes there is no good reason for doing so. Bush reportedly believes that massive direct aid for the Soviet Union makes no sense until a credible economic-reform program is in place.

Gorbachev cautioned that the Soviet Union must carry out its economic reforms in its own time and at its own pace.

"Let's not impose models on each other. We cannot solve all of our problems at once," he said.

Nevertheless, the Soviet leader tried to allay Washington's fears that he does not have the political will to force his fellow Soviets to abandon decades of centrally planned and administered economic programs.

There is no turning back from the path to the market, he said. The Soviet Union must accept radical economic reform because "we have little time."

Many Soviet economists warn of hyperinflation, massive unemployment and a disastrous drop in industrial production before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, he said he hopes Soviet and U.S. officials will soon iron out the final wrinkles in arms-control talks, thus clearing the way for a summit meeting with Bush this year. Officials in Washington and Moscow hoped that such a summit would come off before the end of June, but the date keeps slipping because of disagreements on arms-control issues.

A Soviet military official is in Washington this week for direct talks with Bush and other U.S. officials to see whether the issues can be resolved.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service