Saboteurs came close Tuesday to bringing Kuwait's oil exports to a standstill. After an emergency meeting of the Cabinet yesterday, the crown prince and prime minister, Abdullah Salim Sabah, conceded that explosions at three Kuwaiti oil installations Tuesday were sabotage.

The explosive devices went off simultaneously. Two of them were planted at the manifolds that blend crude oil on its way to Kuwait's two tank farms, and a third was planted at the head of a high-pressure well, the Manchester Guardian reported.

Two fires caused by the explosions were extinguished Tuesday night. A third was brought under control yesterday, authorities said.

Exports are expected to be reduced temporarily, a source said.

The prime minister insisted that Kuwait's oil production will not change, an implicit acknowledgement that he considers the sabotage part of an attempt to force Kuwait to lower its output, now running at 1.5 million barrels a day, well above the quota once established by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Iran has demanded a drastic reduction in the amount of oil produced in order to force higher prices. Some here believed the explosions were linked to that request, which has gone unheeded by Kuwait.