Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams pointedly refused Thursday to rule out the use of military force to remove Panama's Gen. Manuel Antonia Noriega following the collapse of negotiations for his ouster.

Abrams, asked at an impromptu news conference whether the administration was considering the use of military force against Noriega, said: "We don't rule anything out." He added in Spanish to a Hispanic TV crew: "The diplomatic option is gone - it hasn't achieved a thing."

The State Department had advocated the use of military force against Noriega weeks ago but met with resistance from the Defense Department, which feared retaliation against its Panama facilities by Noriega's forces.