AMSTERDAM -- Former Premier Joop Den Uyl, 68, who led the Dutch Labor Party for almost two decades, died Dec. 24 of cancer.

A combative personality known for his intellectual stewardship of the Labor Party movement, Mr. Den Uyl served as premier from 1973 to 1977 and was regarded as the most influential Dutch politician of the 1970s.

Mr. Den Uyl was considered a master of crisis management with great personal authority on the fractious Labor Party political scene.

He won national respect by judiciously dealing with the Lockheed payoff scandal that in 1976 forced Prince Bernhard, husband of then-Queen Juliana, to resign from his official positions.

Mr. Den Uyl also led the nation through a series of sieges by Moluccan separatists who seized the Indonesian Consulate in Amsterdam, a train and a school.

An economist by training, he worked as a civil servant during World War II and also was a journalist.

In 1949, he become director of the Wiardi Beckman Foundation, the scientific research institute run by the Dutch Labor Party. During the 1950s and 1960s, he served in Parliament and on the Amsterdam City Council and Board of Aldermen.

Mr. Den Uyl served as economics minister from 1965 to 1966 in the center-left coalition government of Premier Jo Cals.

For the next six years of center-right governments Mr. Den Uyl led the Labor Party in opposition in Parliament, and when Labor swept back to power in 1973, he became premier in a center-left coalition.

After the collapse of his strongly reformist government, Mr. Den Uyl led Labor to the biggest elections victory in its history but was unable to form a new government and relinquished the premiership to Christian Democrat Andries van Agt, who formed a center-right cabinet.

In Van Agt's second government, Mr. Den Uyl headed the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

He led Labor back into opposition for four more years until it lost the 1986 parliamentary election, and Mr. Den Uyl resigned in favor of Dutch labor union chief Wim Kok, who has headed the party since.

He is survived by his wife Liesbeth and seven children.