MOSCOW, AUG. 17 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in his strongest statement yet on the Persian Gulf crisis, today called Iraq's invasion of Kuwait a "blatant violation" of international law and warned against the outbreak of full-scale war in the region.

Gorbachev, who has interrupted his vacation to work out a series of new proposals on radical reform of the economy, made his remarks after watching an army exercise in the military district of Odessa, on the Black Sea. He said only "collective efforts" and "political methods" would prevent the gulf situation from "escalating into a full-scale military confrontation."

Saying he was counting on the "reason and responsibility" of the Arab states and the United Nations Security Council to resolve the crisis politically, Gorbachev added: "It is important not only to stop military activities and prevent them from spreading to other countries. It is also essential to restore respect for international law."

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said at a news conference today that if the United Nations calls for a multinational force, the Soviet Union would send troops to the Persian Gulf, the Associated Press reported. Shevardnadze would not comment on how the Soviet Union would vote on such a proposal in the U.N. Security Council, but said, "If the Soviet Union votes for that decision, it certainly will take part."

Although the Soviet Union supplied Iraq with arms for the past three decades, Gorbachev has sided with the West against Iraq. "For us to have reacted in a different way would have been unacceptable since the act of aggression was committed with the help of our weapons, which we agreed to sell to Iraq only to maintain its defense capability rather than to seize foreign territories and whole countries," Gorbachev said.

In his televised speech, Gorbachev said, "We have witnessed an act of perfidy and a blatant violation of international law and the U.N. Charter -- in short, a violation of everything the world community now pins its hopes on as it seeks to put civilization on the tracks of peaceful development."

Gorbachev said the Soviet Union had "no other choice" but to join the West in condemning Iraq. "The use of force to redraw borders, especially in order to annex a sovereign country, threatens to set off a perilous chain reaction endangering the entire world community," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Gremitskikh told reporters that the Iraqis are cooperating in the gradual evacuation of Soviet citizens, mainly oil workers, from Kuwait to the Soviet Union via the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

He said the first group of Soviet evacuees, 230 workers and their families, were heading from Iraq to the Jordanian border. In Amman, they will board an Aeroflot plane for Moscow. A second group arrived in Baghdad today. Government offices in Moscow have been deluged with calls from families worried about relatives living in Iraq and Kuwait.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry said Iraq was allowing only Soviet women, children and invalids to leave the country, detaining the estimated 5,000 Soviet men in the region.