NAIROBI, KENYA, JUNE 11 -- Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, whose government has been criticized by U.S. officials for human rights abuses, said today there has "never been a torture" in his country.

Moi said that the U.S. Congress, now considering a bill that would condition foreign aid on improvement in this country's human rights record, should stay out of Kenya's "internal affairs."

"The remarks that have been made by Congress regarding Kenya and Kenya's human rights have no substance. We are the freest country in Africa," Moi said.

Moi's remarks came in a 30-minute interview with The Washington Post, the first he has granted an American journalist in his nearly nine years as president of this East African country.

The meeting was requested by Moi. It came two days after I was detained by Kenyan immigration officials, ordered to leave the country and driven to Nairobi's airport to await the first plane to London. Moi said he personally intervened on Tuesday to stop my deportation, and today he ordered immigration officials here to renew my permit to work as a journalist based in Kenya.

Moi, who is about 62, controls virtually every aspect of the Kenyan government and his word is regarded as law by most government officials. In the past year, he has moved forcefully to assert his own power over that of Kenya's elected parliament and its judicial system.

In the interview, in which no one else was present in Moi's office in the State House residence here, the president discounted press reports of systematic police torture to extract confessions from accused dissidents. At least 70 Kenyans have been sentenced to prison for sedition in the past year and a half. All have confessed after confinement in jails.

Court documents filed here allege that police have tried to coerce confessions using torture. The documents allege, and several knowledgeable Kenyans also say, that torture methods involve confinement of naked suspects in dark cells partly filled with water, as well as beatings with whips and pieces of wood.

"It is not Kenyan government policy to do such a thing," Moi said. "If there are odd fellows who have done bad things, they have been dealt with."

In a speech last month, Moi said he would fire officers involved in police brutality. No such dismissals have been announced by the government.

Kenyans who have been jailed for sedition have confessed to involvement in a secret political organization called Mwakenya, which has circulated Marxist-sounding documents and called for Moi's overthrow. Despite its rhetoric, Mwakenya is not believed by diplomats to be a significant political or military threat to the government.

Moi argued today that far too much has been made of the human rights issue in Kenya. He said that the United States and other western countries that give assistance to Kenya should, instead, wake up to Kenya's security problems.

"We are an island within this region where subversion can occur," Moi said.

He said that the U.S. government, instead of interfering with Kenya's internal affairs in the name of human rights, should be "as concerned as we are" about threats to Kenya's stability. Accordingly, Moi said, the U.S. government should provide increased military assistance.

"How would you feel?" he asked. "We have been taken for granted as a friend. The U.S. is not interested in us."

"How can the United States oppose Nicaragua for being Marxist and not see that Mwakenya is also Marxist?" he asked.

Kenya is threatened, Moi said, both by Mwakenya dissidents within the country and by Libyans operating in bordering Uganda.

In the past year, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has strengthened his country's military and trade ties to the Ugandan government, a development Moi views with alarm.

Kenya sees links between local dissidents and the Libyans in Uganda. In recent weeks, Kenyan officials have accused Libya of using that country as a base to give military training to the dissidents. No evidence has been produced publicly to support the claim and Uganda denies it.

Kenya recently closed Libya's diplomatic mission in Nairobi and expelled five Libyan diplomats. The expulsions came after Kenya announced that it had uncovered a Libyan plot to hire Kenyan students as spies.

The U.S. government, gratified by Kenya's capitalist, anticommunist philosophy, has long regarded this country as one of its strongest allies in sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya is the second largest recipient of U.S. assistance in the region -- about $53 million this year.

Under a 1980 agreement, the United States has access to Kenyan airports and ports. The Peace Corps has long been active in this country. Kenya is Africa's most popular tourist destination, with more than 600,000 European and American visitors last year.

U.S.-Kenyan relations, however, have been strained this year by reports of human rights abuses, including evidence that one Kenyan was severely beaten last February while in police custody. The man died after police brought him to a Nairobi hospital. Accounts of police torture appeared in The Washington Post on the day after Moi, on an official visit to the United States in March, met with President Reagan at the White House.

At the time, the State Department called on the Kenyan government to "investigate these most recent allegations {and} make the findings public." A senior U.S. official said that the Reagan administration was concerned that Kenya's good reputation could be ruined. In April, both the House and Senate added language to next year's foreign aid bill that conditions future U.S. assistance on Kenya's improvement in its human rights record.

Moi said today that human rights in Kenya should not be the concern of the U.S. government.

"The U.S. government ought really to know that the internal affairs of Kenya are within the sovereignty of the Kenyan government," Moi said. "I attach great importance to bilateral relations and on that basis I take it that the countries {Kenya and the United States} are equal. None is subordinate to the other."

Asked about his and his government's apparent sensitivity to press criticism, Moi said, "No, we have never been sensitive to criticism. People have criticized us left and right. . . . We don't stop people from criticizing the government. What we don't want is false propaganda against the country."

The local press in Kenya, while reporting vigorously on foreign affairs and nongovernmental matters, never directly criticizes Moi or his policies. At least five of the 70 persons sentenced to prison for sedition in the past 18 months have been journalists.

Foreign correspondents, however, have been allowed wide latitude to report on human rights issues in Kenya. Except for South Africa, there are more foreign correspondents in Kenya -- about 100 -- than in any country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Moi said today that his government allows Kenya-based foreign journalists to say and write things that would never be allowed by "Mobutu or Museveni." He was referring to Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.