Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), whose quick wit has led him into difficulty, sought yesterday to dismiss as "hyperbole" his assertion that "a little three-day invasion" of Nicaragua would be welcomed by the people of Nicaragua and their Central American neighbors.

Dole, an unannounced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, made the comment in an interview published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Saturday.

In the interview, he suggested that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is so disliked by other Central American leaders that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias would not object "if somebody came down there and sort of blew him {Ortega} away."

Walt Ryker, Dole's press secretary, said yesterday that the comments were "strict hyperbole," not meant to be taken seriously. He said Dole, who recently toured Central America and met Ortega, Arias and other leaders there, was seeking to underscore "just how unpopular Daniel Ortega is in Central America."

"In no way is he advocating any kind of military action or an invasion," Ryker said.

Ryker said Dole, who was in his Senate office yesterday, was not available to elaborate.

According to the Sentinel, Dole made the "three-day invasion" remark while trying to explain what he meant by the phrase "blew him away."

"I don't mean kill him," Dole said. Pressed, he added: "I've got a feeling a little three-day invasion wouldn't make anybody unhappy down there, if you just overthrew Ortega. But that's just my guess."

Later in the interview, Dole attempted to back off any implication that he was advocating U.S. military action in Nicaragua. He said that he did not know whether Ortega's government could be overthrown in three days and that it would be preferable if other Central American nations "can isolate Nicaragua."

Asked how far he is willing to go in seeking a military solution in the region, Dole said:

"I'm not even suggesting that. We don't need to do that. But the point that sort of puzzles me {is} all these people around the Capitol and everywhere else supporting Ortega, and you can't find anybody in Central America supporting Ortega."

Dole is well known for his bantering style with reporters and a quick, often acid wit in responding to questions. As he approaches formal declaration of his candidacy for president, his comments are likely to receive increased attention and scrutiny.

The interview was the lead story in the Sentinel, and Dole's disavowal of U.S. military action in the region was reported near the end of the article on an inside page.