President Mikhail Gorbachev pledged on Saturday the Soviet Union would work persistently for a nuclear-free and non-violent world "of cooperation in diversity."

Gorbachev made his remarks, reported by the official Tass news agency, to foreign ambassadors in the Kremlin at a meeting held annually before celebrations marking the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.He said the past year had brought important changes, many of them unprecedented in Moscow's ties with the outside world.

"Advance towards a new character of international relations has begun," the Soviet leader declared.

The "perestroika" (restructuring) reform program, Gorbachev added, "has enabled us more consistently and creatively, with due regard for the realities of the new times, to build our foreign policy on the principles of peaceful coexistence."

Moscow, he said, was determined "to proceed along the road to a nuclear weapon-free and non-violent world, toward a world of cooperation in diversity."

Politburo member Nikolai Slyunkov struck a similar note in the Kremlin, saying the advancement of "human values" was at the center of Soviet foreign policy.

The burly, 59-year-old Slyunkov praised intensifying dialogue between the Soviet Union and the United States.

But he said a threat to peace remained "with some quarters still seeking to maintain a policy of establishing superiority." In this situation, Slyunkov declared, Moscow "must retain a strong defense capacity."