A group of U.S. publishers have appealed to President Carter and U.S. business leaders to intercede with the shah of Iran and his wife on behalf of an Iranian writer who has been denied a passport.

The publishers have sought for months to invite Gholamhossein Sa'edi to visit the United States to discuss publication of his work in English and meet with other writers and academics.

Sa'edi received only one of the five letters of invitation, according to Winthrop Knowlton, president of Harper & Row, and was instructed by Iranian officials to decline the invitation. He was told he would not be granted a passport, Knowlton said.

On Nov. 23, however, Knowlton spoke with Sa'edi and although the Iranian writer made clear that he was taking a risk by discussing his situation on the telephone, he said he would be delighted to visit the United States.

The International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers, which issued the invitation, described the situation to Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Fereydoun Hoveyda.

His initial reply was that he could not be responsible for Sa'edi's failure to answer his mail, according to one person who spoke with him.

Sa'edi was imprisoned for nine months and before his release in 1975 he was tortured and forced to make a videotape denouncing his writings and praising the shah accoring to Knowlton and Iranian exiles in the United States.

In his forced statement, according to the exiles, Sa'edi "forbade the people to read those works of mine which bring out the negative aspects of the Iranian society." He also said "thanks to the wise leadership of the shah of shahs, Iran has achieved comprehensive progress, which had had great reflections on the international scene.

In a letter to about 100 American sponsors of a dinner planned for Jan. 12 in New York to honor the shah's wife, Knowlton and three other publishers said that Iran isreportedly reluctant to let Sa'edi travel because he bears scars from his torture.

The other signers of the letter on behalf of the International Freedom to Publish Committee were Robert Bernstein, president of Random House; Kenneth McCormick, senior editor at Doubleday, and Lawrence Hughes, president of William Morrow.

In a separate letter to Carter, Knowlton asked the President to raise Sa'edis case during his Tehran meeting with the shah this weekend.