AQABA, JORDAN, AUG. 15 -- "Would you come to sun yourself in front of the USS Eisenhower?" The question, by a hotel receptionist here, exemplified the worries of this sprawling port and resort city over the threat of a sea blockade if Jordan refuses to comply with the United Nations embargo against Iraq.

Business is slowing and ships have started to cancel arrangements with local shipping firms. Officials at the Aqaba port authority say they are worried about becoming a harbor under siege.

Aqaba, Jordan's only outlet to the sea, is about 200 miles south of the capital, Amman, and only a few hundred yards from the Israeli port of Eilat. It long has been an important transit point for goods moving to and from Iraq. The Red Sea port has suddenly become the focus of international concern as the last loophole in an effective embargo against Iraq.

"I am worried. Of course I am worried. I don't know what will happen," said Awad Tell, the director general of the Aqaba port authority. With the USS Eisenhower, an aircraft carrier, just over the horizon, Aqaba residents are concerned at President Bush's warning that the port would not be exempt from the blockade if traffic to Baghdad continued.

Trucks laden with plywood, construction materials, red and white Toyota cars and wheat still can be seen rumbling toward the Iraqi border along the desert highway that stretches from here to there. In this town of 50,000 where Italian tourists were basking on the beach, one local official found the threat hard to believe. "We are not at war. This is Jordan, not Iraq," he said.

Yet the prospect of losing shipping business, which peaked at the height of the Iran-Iraq war in 1987, frightens Aqaba residents. Nayef Abou Mahfouz, a rug merchant in the local bazaar protested: "We respect the American people. Why hurt Jordan? It is food we bring in. It is for food not war, why not let us live?"

Tell, the port official, said there were 12 ships docked at Aqaba, unloading food, wood and newsprint meant for both Iraq and Jordan. Bassam E. Kakish, chairman of the Aqaba region authority, insisted that the town's role was mainly to provide services to ships coming in.

The last ship docked in Aqaba on Monday, port officials said.

"Why receive a threat from our neighbor {Israel} when it is not involved in the {Persian} gulf? Why Jordan? We are not threatening peace in the world," Kakish said.

Journalists were not allowed to tour the port itself, which provides employment for 5,000 dockworkers and 8,000 truck drivers.

Kakish said the U.N.-mandated sanctions need better definition. "Are they a blockade or a military action? Do they include food or general cargo?" he said. When told that Bush's aim was to block all goods from entering Iraq, he responded: "Bush is not the U.N."

Issam Qaawar, a partner in the largest shipping company in Aqaba, said three ships were idle in the port because their captains had been given orders not to remove their cargo in compliance with the boycott. Qaawar and Tell, the port official, said they had not yet received formal instructions to stop unloading, but said they would go along with any new regulations.

When asked to explain why goods were still leaving Aqaba, Qaawar said the cargo was "discharged long before the sanctions and paid for by the Iraqis in the past few months." One example he gave was the Greek freighter Oinoussian which unloaded 56,000 tons of corn on Tuesday. Qaawar complained that two ships were at the Suez Canal awaiting instructions, while another was at Port Said, at the canal's northern terminus. One vessel was laden with sugar and the other with rice. "Only four ships had the decency to notify us they were not coming. Many did not," Qaawar said.

During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq exported a trickle of oil through Aqaba, via a low-capacity pipeline into Jordan. Tanker trucks carried oil from the pipeline terminal to Aqaba and loaded it onto ships. Shipping agents in Aqaba noted that Iraq has not tried to use that route since the end of the war two years ago, when a larger pipeline, recently shut, began carrying Iraqi oil across Turkey to the Mediterranean.

Qaawar said Jordan will have to rely heavily on other Arab countries if it stops receiving Iraqi crude oil.

Jordan not only risks losing revenues in transit and custom tariffs from traffic coming from Iraq if the Aqaba port is closed, but also the ability to export its own fertilizer, potash and cement.

Despite tensions in the gulf and the fears here of a blockade, no military fortifications are visible on the border here with Israel. However, convoys of military trucks and jeeps mounted with machine guns -- an unfamiliar sight -- were seen on Aqaba's highway.