U.S. officials pressed Iraq yesterday for the safe return of at least 14 Americans missing in the Kuwait oil fields and advised thousands of other Americans in that country and Iraq to leave as soon as possible.

"We cannot confirm that the missing Americans are in Iraqi control but we believe they are," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

He said U.S. officials "have reminded the Iraqis of their commitment to the safety and welfare of American citizens in Kuwait." That commitment was made, he said, as Thursday's pre-dawn invasion began, when Iraqi foreign ministry officials promised U.S. embassy officers in Baghdad that Americans would not be harmed.

By late yesterday Iraq had provided no information about the missing employees, who work for three different companies with operations near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, Boucher said.

Government officials, citing privacy laws, would not give the names or employers of the missing Americans but one official said the Iraqis had been given that information as well as details on where the oil workers were last seen, in order to speed their return.

In Louisiana and Texas, relatives of two men working in Kuwaiti oil fields for Santa Fe Drilling Co. said company officials had told them their relatives are among those unaccounted for.

Larry Neal, a spokesman for Sen. Phil Gramm, (R-Tex.), said State Department officials had told him that at least three families in Texas "are concerned." The families have been told that the Iraqis may have rounded up their relatives during the opening moments of the attack, he said. He added that the missing people were said to be employed by Santa Fe Drilling, a subsidiary of the California-based Santa Fe International, or two other unnamed companies.

Santa Fe International was described by one industry official as an American company owned by Kuwait.

In Gilmer, Texas, the children of Charles Amos, 56, said the State Department informed them that Amos had been captured by invading Iraqi soldiers. Amos, an employee of Santa Fe Drilling, had traveled and worked abroad for more than 20 years, they said.

"We were set to have a family reunion this weekend, and Dad was going to fly out of Kuwait" early Thursday morning, his daughter Karen told a local television station. "But we got the call from the State Department about 2 p.m."

"We are holding out for whatever information we can get," said his son, David.

In Shreveport, La., Doris Whatley told reporters that she had received a call from Santa Fe Drilling informing her that her husband, Donald, is missing. Whatley, a drilling supervisor, had just returned to Kuwait after a vacation in Shreveport, she said.

"They took him from his rig this morning and they took him across the border {to Iraq}," she told the Associated Press. "He just barely had arrived there in time for them to take him off his rig."

"I don't want him to be forgotten like the rest of the hostages in the Middle East have been," she added.

Guy Marcus, a spokesman for Halliburton Co., a Dallas-based construction company involved with the oil business, said the company is missing two of its employees in Kuwait, one American and one British subject.

"We have two people that we have not been able to account for," Marcus said. "We believe that they have been detained by the Iraqis."

They were part of the company's oil field services group in Kuwait, which has 16 non-Kuwaiti employees, eight of them Americans. "Most of the remaining 14 employees have departed Kuwait. There are a couple who have remained at their choice," Marcus said.

He didn't give names or positions of the missing employees. "We're running all kinds of traps" to find them, he said, but he wouldn't be more specific about the efforts. "Communications are difficult," he said. "Information is fragmentary."

Two chemical engineers with the Chevron Research and Technology Co. in Richmond, Calif., who had been believed missing were later accounted for, a Chevron official said. Communications difficulties in Kuwait had prevented them from contacting Chevron or their families.

Staff writer Mark Potts contributed to this report.