PARIS, AUG. 2 -- The Iraqi invasion of neighboring Arab Kuwait evoked swift condemnation today throughout most of the world but little official criticism in other Arab nations.

Most Arab capitals ignored Kuwait's appeal for support in the wake of Iraq's massive attack and instead urged foreign powers to avoid involvement so as to provide time for an Arab diplomatic settlement of the crisis.

The muted response across the Arab world stood in sharp contrast to the strong denunciations of Iraq's military action in the West. France, Britain and Switzerland joined the United States in freezing Kuwaiti assets to prevent their seizure by Iraq. All 12 European Community countries denounced the invasion and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

The United Nations Security Council convened an urgent session in New York and unanimously condemned the invasion. The council also called for an immediate retreat by Iraq and for negotiations between the two antagonists. The resolution was supported by 14 of the council's 15 members. Yemen did not vote because it had not received instructions. There was no mention of sanctions.

During a debate, the United States charged that the Iraqi invasion had been "carefully planned" but that the Iraqis had "made a serious mistake."

"Instead of staging a coup d'etat and installing the so-called free provisional government before the invasion, they got it the wrong way around," Ambassador Thomas Pickering told the council. "They invaded Kuwait and then staged the coup d'etat in a blatant and deceitful effort to try to justify their action."

Elsewhere, China said "no one should resort to force of arms in resolving their disputes." Japan, which imports 99 percent of its oil from the Middle East, "deeply regrets" the invasion and "requests the immediate retreat of the Iraqi forces," chief government spokesman Misoji Sakamoto said.

An emergency meeting in Cairo of the 22-member Arab League adjourned without making any proclamation, ostensibly to await the arrival of an Iraqi delegation. Kuwait's cabinet affairs minister, Abdel Rahman Awadi, told reporters after the session that he had asked the Arab League to condemn the invasion and dispatch a joint task force to protect his country.

"Arab leaders must take the initiative and stop this bloodshed and return things to their normal situation," Awadi said. He accused Iraq of using the "law of the jungle" to settle its conflict over borders and oil with Kuwait and demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi troops. Egypt's Middle East News Agency said the League's foreign ministers agreed to call a summit meeting.

But the Arab League's representative at the United Nations, Clovis Maksoud, said member countries "don't think it is advisable . . . to render moral judgment" against Iraq because such condemnation could harm the League's potential role as a mediator.

Jordan's King Hussein, who has emerged in recent years as one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's closest allies in the Arab world, flew to the Mediterranean port of Alexandria to discuss the crisis with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In recent days, both leaders have been active in seeking to defuse the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait.

Jordan's official news agency, Petra, reported that King Hussein's consultations were aimed at "containing and limiting the rapid developments in the {Persian} Gulf region within its Arab premises and fending off threats of any international interventions."

"Foreign intervention on the part of imperialist powers is something which we utterly reject because the Arabs are capable of resolving their problems on their own," said a Libyan statement. Turkey, on the other hand, denounced the "violation of Kuwaiti sovereignty."

A spokesman for Syrian President Hafez Assad, one of Saddam's most bitter foes in the Arab world, said Assad was consulting with Mubarak by telephone about "what useful moves could be undertaken concerning these dangerous developments, especially the idea of convening an immediate Arab summit."

Saudi Arabia also kept a low profile, even though it is committed to protecting Kuwait's security through leadership of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. The council decried the invasion in a statement, saying, "How can Arab blood be shed by Arab hands? How can an Arab country occupy an Arab country?"

The anxiety expressed in Arab countries about the risks of foreign involvement appeared to mask other reasons behind their meek response, including concerns about further provoking Saddam and the resentment that many poorer Arabs feel toward Kuwait's ruling elite.

The Iraqi leader is widely regarded in the Arab world as a ruthless tyrant whose recourse to military action in pursuit of his goals came as less than a surprise. Following a truce two years ago in Iraq's long war with Iran, Saudi Arabia quickly concluded a nonaggression pact in the hope of thwarting Saddam's expansionist designs on the rich Persian Gulf sheikdoms.

Iran, alluding to Kuwaiti aid to Iraq during the 1980-88 war, said "recent developments are the consequence of past collaboration with the aggressor" and added that it had "repeatedly pointed out to the regional countries" the threat posed by Iraq.

Because of its wealth, Kuwait's current plight does not seem to engender much sympathy throughout the Arab world. Even Saudi Arabia, its principal protector, has grown angry with Kuwait's surplus oil production in recent years, which has helped keep world prices low.

Special correspondent Trevor Rowe at the United Nations contributed to this report.