Former president Nixon said today that what the Rev Jime Jones, the dead leader of the suicide cult, offered his followers "may have been false" but that he was giving something to believe in to people who needed it.

Interviewed briefly this evening on French television, the visiting Nixon said of Jones: "He was searching for something. I think that throughout the world, in the United States, maybe in France, people need to believe in something, to have a faith.

Calling Jones "very insane," Nixon said, however, "When people consider him, they have to remember that he did not offer those who went with him to live there in the jungle material goods. What he offered them was something to believe in.'

Nixon quickly added, "Now, what he offered them may have been false." He said he did not think it was, as many European commenators have suggested, a reflection of American society.

Nixon is in France to appear Tuesday evening on a television program during which for two hours he will answer questions telephoned in to the moderators by the public. He said he was intrigued by the spon taneity of the format.

What a TV reporter today tried to ask Nixon about the Middle East after the question on Guyana, one of his bodyguards got up and tried to stop the interview, blocking the camera, apparently unintentionally, in an effort to cut off the question.

But Nixon agreed to answer, saying that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty is "a first step." The next step, he said, is to tackle the more difficult problems such as the Palestinians, the West Bank and Jerusalem. The problem of Jerusalem may prove to be insoluble, he said.

Nixon game himself and his secretary of state, Henry kissinger, credit for starting the process that has led to the Camp Daivd accords.

Nixon is scheduled to leave France Wednesday morning. That evening, Kissinger is to arrive in Paris, also on a private trip. The Elysee Palace said that French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing is receiving Kissinger Thursday Nixon and Giscard will not meet.

The former U.S. president is not scheduled to meet with any prominent French political leaders although he is attending several private dinners in his honor. Herve Alphand, the former French ambassador to Washington, was expected to attend one such dinner tonight.