THE Executive Council yesterday deferred a decision on whether to go ahead this week with gazetting the bill giving effect to Governor Mr Chris Patten's constitutional package, amid hopes that China and Britain may resume talks on the subject. Officials from the two sides are stepping up efforts to find a way to re-open talks although concrete results facilitating the negotiations have yet to emerge. There are some indications that an announcement might come even today on when bilateral talks can be resumed to break the impasse over Mr Patten's reform package. Delaying a decision on gazetting the bill would be seen as a friendly gesture to the Chinese side and an indication that the British side is not trying to rush through the reforms. Noting the Government had only committed itself to publishing the bill before the end of the month, the Executive Council still has time to leave its options open. The British ambassador in China, Sir Robin McLaren, and officials from the Chinese State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office have been in close contact in the past week on the possibility of resuming talks. A senior Chinese official last night struck a note of optimism saying that it was China's consistent stance to be prepared for talks with Britain on the 1995 elections and the question of smooth transition. Vice-director of the local branch of the New China News Agency, Mr Zhang Junsheng, said: ''The Chinese Government has all the time agreed that there should be talks between the two governments to discuss transitional matters in Hongkong. ''Since the current controversy was initiated by Mr Patten, Britain should first correct Mr Patten's mistakes.'' Asked if China welcomed the Government's decision to delay gazetting the bill, Mr Zhang said the Legislative Council was only an advisory body and had no authority to veto any agreements reached between the two governments. A Government spokesman yesterday reiterated that the British side was willing to talk with the Chinese side at any time and any place about the 1994/95 elections but add-ed the discussions should go forward without preconditions. The British side would be delighted if the Chinese side agreed to talk again, a source said. ''If the Chinese side is willing to talk then so are we,'' the source added. A Chinese source in Beijing said that to facilitate the talks, Beijing had tactfully proposed that the theme of the talks should focus on the questions of convergence and smooth transition while not insisting Britain make public an announcement on the retraction of Mr Patten's constitutional reform package. ''China is keen on holding talks with the British to discuss a wide range of important issues concerning convergence of the political system, civil service and future co-operative relations between the two governments,'' the source said. An official from the State Council's Hongkong and Macau Affairs Office said China would be willing to hold talks with Britain to discuss the enforcement of the Joint Declaration, convergence with the Basic Law and implementation of the previous agreements reached between the two governments. He reiterated Beijing's position that Mr Patten's reform package would not be accepted as the basis of any talks between the two governments. It is understood that the Executive Council spent the whole session yesterday morning solely on reassessing the latest developments in the light of suggestions that China was prepared to resume talks. All other business in the Exco agenda has been deferred to next week's session given the long discussion on the latest state of play between China and Britain. With the deferment of the gazetting of the bill, originally scheduled for last Friday and later postponed to this Friday, emerging as a condition for China to return to the negotiating table, the Exco is believed to have preferred to keep the door open for negotiations and deferred the approval to publish the bill. Speaking after the meeting, Senior Executive Councillor Lady Dunn ignored questions and repeatedly said she had nothing new to say. But Executive Councillor Professor Felice Lieh-mak said the situation remained the same as last week and the bill would be gazetted this month and tabled to Legco five days later, according to the schedule. ''The situation hasn't changed and you'll be kept informed of further developments,'' she said. Her Exco colleague Professor Edward Chen Kwan-yiu said talks between the two sides would not affect the timetable for the Legco deliberations on the plans. Saying there were two possibilities if Sino-British negotiations were resumed, Professor Chen said: ''The bill could still be put to the Legco or it could be delayed. There must be enough time for the bill to take effect for the elections.'' He added that while both sides have not been active in talks, the doors were still open for negotiations. A resumption in talks would indicate that all ''preconditions'' had been dropped, he said.