NEW YORK, NOV. 30 -- Orin E. Atkins, the former chairman of Ashland Oil Inc., was sentenced today to probation and community service for trying to sell confidential company documents to Iran.

U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight of Manhattan said that, although he felt Atkins had committed a serious crime, he decided a prison sentence was not warranted because Atkins cooperated with prosecutors and agreed to pay restitution to Ashland.

The restitution settlement, announced today in court, calls for Atkins to forgo more than $2 million in consulting fees and pension benefits and repay the company $250,000.

Haight sentenced Atkins to two years' probation and 600 hours of community service. The judge imposed no additional fine, citing Atkins's diminished finances.

Atkins, 66, of North Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty in September 1989 to conspiracy and wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with the government. He had faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Atkins admitted that, after he resigned as chairman in 1981 but remained as a paid Ashland consultant, he obtained confidential documents involving the firm's decision not to pay the National Iranian Oil Co. for $283 million in crude oil purchased in 1979. The company withheld payment because of a U.S. trade ban imposed following the taking of American hostages in Tehran in November 1979.