AMMAN, JORDAN, AUG. 21 -- Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein urged President Bush today to seek a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis or face global "disaster," while Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz stressed Iraq's willingness to talk to the United States as long as a withdrawal of its troops from Kuwait is not a precondition.

Aziz, speaking at a press conference here, said, "If they are ready to talk, we are ready to talk," but he stressed: "I make it clear that we do not yield to intimidation."

The Bush administration, bolstered by widespread international support for a multinational military buildup against Iraq, bluntly rejected the offer of such negotiations, saying that until Iraq removes its invasion force from Kuwait the United States has no interest in any talks.

In Paris, nine European nations pledged to expand their naval operations in the Persian Gulf region, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher urged the United Nations to authorize military action to stop Iraqi tankers in gulf waters.

Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Saadoun Hammadi continued his talks in Moscow with top Soviet officials, who are seeking to negotiate safe evacuation of their nationals and other foreigners as well as to press for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

As U.S. armed forces in the gulf region neared 40,000 troops, military sources in Cairo said that Egypt has begun sending a 12,000-man mechanized infantry division to bolster its estimated 5,000 troops already there, and Syria confirmed that it has sent troops to Saudi Arabia.

Two senior U.N. envoys arrived in Baghdad to look into the plight of the thousands of foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait who are being prevented from leaving. But at the United Nations, a U.S.-backed move to gain Security Council approval for use of military action to enforce U.N. sanctions against Iraq slowed after smaller countries complained of pressure. Backers of the move now hope to gain approval of a broad-based resolution later this week.

As attention focused on the diplomatic activity, refugees from Iraq and Kuwait continued to reach Jordan. Among them were a number of Westerners, including several unidentified Americans, some of them embassy staff members from Baghdad. About 75 U.N. employees and dependents flew to Amman.

Both Saddam and Aziz dismissed accusations that foreigners are being held hostage in Kuwait and Iraq as an act of revenge. They insisted that Iraq's main motives in detaining the thousands of Americans, British, French and other Westerners are to "avert a crime," to guard Iraq against aggression and to "contribute to the cause of peace."

Saddam, in a statement read on Iraqi television, took issue with Bush, accusing him of ignoring initiatives and solutions offered to resolve the crisis, and he warned that "if Bush were to attack, a grave disaster would take place, not only for the region but for the whole world."

Rejecting the comparison that Bush has drawn between Saddam and Hitler, the Iraqi leader said Bush "forgets that all these descriptions apply to him, because Iraq did not send its fleet and planes to launch an aggression against America and Europe."

"Is there any doubt," Saddam said, "that these characteristics apply to President Bush when he seeks to ignite a war that would burn the whole world? Is there any more evidence than his belittling of all initiatives and solutions we offered? . . . What we have offered in our initiatives . . . is the only clear way for those who want to avoid the evil characteristics of Hitler."

Aziz told foreign journalists here in Amman that he had called the U.S. charge d'affaires in Baghdad on Monday night to express his government's interest in talks.

"Last night I talked to the American charge in Baghdad and said: 'Look, if you are ready to talk, we are ready to talk,' " Aziz said.

He complained that "sincere proposals" made by Saddam and requests for peace guarantees were not even considered by the U.N. Security Council, which condemned Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and approved sanctions against Baghdad. Aziz accused the body of knuckling under to "pressure and intimidation" from the United States.

The press conference followed a meeting between Aziz and King Hussein of Jordan, held amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in the region and heightened concern in the West about the transfer of Westerners to sites where vital Iraqi military installations and potential targets are situated.

Aziz, who fielded most questions from reporters decisively and directly, lost his temper when pressed on the issue of the detained foreigners, who Bush on Monday called "hostages" for the first time.

"The situation cannot be defined as hostage-taking as the president of the United States has said," Aziz said. "When Iranians took diplomats as hostages, they asked for money to release them. We have hosted them with our families, and we are telling their governments to make peace. When you seek peace, you are not doing wrong. . . . At the moment, those who are there will be our guests, and they will live with our people at the sites defined in the statements of our {parliament} speaker."

Arguing with an American journalist, Aziz defended Iraq's strategy and accused Western nations of holding a double standard by displaying concern only for their own nationals regardless of the safety of others.

"We want to protect our own people from aggression," Aziz said, his voice rising. "We will not accept that international law justifies the killing of the Iraqi people and provides freedom of movement of your nationals. This is unjust and immoral.

"We have also the right to live in our country. We are not waging a war in the U.S. We are staying in our own country. We live in Iraq," he said. "We have to protect our own people, and we do not accept your double standards. . . . They are our guests, and they will contribute to an ideal cause of peace, peace, peace.

"I make it clear," he said, "that we do not yield to intimidation. We make proposals, and we are ready to put all our cards on the table in the Security Council and to discuss" issues of the region.

"Let them raise their concerns, and we will raise our concerns," he said. "The whole situation in the region could be discussed. If the U.S. interlocutors are ready to discuss their other concerns, we are ready to listen to their concerns and will have our reply."

Asked whether Iraq was prepared to discuss a pullout of its troops from Kuwait, Aziz said only: "We are ready to discuss the situation in the gulf and other situations in the region."

When asked if he thought the region was on the brink of war, he replied: "It is clear to me that the American administration is preparing the grounds for its war of aggression. In this regard, I dare say it has made a great misjudgment and miscalcuation of the situation.

"If the American leaders think this is a vacation like they had in Panama and Grenada, then it is going to be a bloody conflict, and America will lose, and America will be humiliated."

In Cairo earlier today, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak issued an impassioned plea to Saddam, pressing him to withdraw his forces from Kuwait.

"I appeal to President Saddam Hussein to save mankind . . . from a destructive war . . . and God only knows how terrifying the end would be if it was started. It would take us backward to darkness and loss."

Referring to the transfer of Westerners to strategic installations, Aziz said that Westerners who have jobs in Iraq, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, "are not concerned by this arrangement." Those who have work permits in Iraq are not being moved, he said, and nothing will change for these people, who, he pointed out, include American and British nationals. "This arrangement covers mostly all those who were in the city of Kuwait who have stopped to have any function there. We are not bargaining for money, but for peace," he argued.

Aziz attacked the ousted rulers of Kuwait, describing them as "corrupt, illiterate, selfish sheiks."

He charged that while the Kuwaitis had hoarded hundreds of billions of dollars in Western capitals and had squandered money on harems and casinos, people elsewhere in the Arab world were going hungry.

"We would like to build homes for the poor, schools for children, hospitals for the sick," he said. "We want decent life for our people and good relations with the outside world. But it seems you have your own choices."

Meanwhile, Iraq slowed a flood of departing Egyptians at its border with Jordan to help ease congestion at the port of Aqaba caused by refugees waiting to sail home.

Thousands of Egyptian workers stranded in the Red Sea port demonstrated today to protest their prolonged wait for ships to carry them home. Thousands of workers poured into Aqaba as well as Amman, where they sought refuge in churches, mosques and schools.

About 75 U.N. staff members, diplomats and dependents flew to Amman on an Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad. Two unidentified Americans and a Dutch national reached the border this morning. "It's unclear who will get out of Baghdad. The rules are changing daily," a U.N. employee said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama, in a meeting with King Hussein today, pledged to help Jordan financially if it honors U.N.-mandated sanctions against Iraq, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Makoto Yamanaka said. He did not say what form such aid might take but said Jordan had submitted written proposals.

The U.S.-led naval effort to intercept ships involved in trade with Iraq continued today, although an Iraqi tanker unloaded its cargo unhindered at a refinery at Aden in Yemen, the Reuter news agency reported.

Oil industry sources in Yemen said the 36,330-ton Ain Zalah unloaded at Aden but that the nature of the cargo was not immediately known. They said two more Iraqi tankers were waiting offshore, including the Baba Karkar, which U.S. warships had been shadowing through the Persian Gulf after firing warning shots Saturday in an unsuccessful attempt to halt it.

At the United Nations, Yemeni Ambassador Abdalla Saleh Ashtal denied the reports, saying a tanker "is docked but it did not offload or onload."

Washington Post correspondent William Claiborne reported from Cairo:

Egypt has begun sending a mechanized infantry division, backed by artillery support batteries, to Saudi Arabia to bolster U.S. forces and an all-Arab defense force protecting the Saudi oil fields against attack by Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait, military sources said today.

The transfer of the 12,000-man division, the sources said, began two days ago and is aimed at bolstering the 4,000- to 5,000-man Egyptian force of mostly commandos and paratroopers already in Saudi Arabia, the sources said.

Last week, a senior Egyptian military source said that if Saudi Arabia requested it, Egypt was prepared to send a mechanized infantry division and a tank division to Saudi Arabia.

Syria confirmed it has already sent troops -- unofficially reported to number 1,200 -- to Saudi Arabia to fulfill a pledge it made at an Arab summit here Aug. 10. Morocco is reported to have sent between 600 and 1,000 troops, with a promise of more.

There was no immediate confirmation by Egypt's Defense Ministry of the reported deployments from Cairo, but Western military sources here said Mubarak had put no ceiling on how many troops he would send. Instead, the sources said, Egypt would weigh requests for assistance as they were received from Saudi Arabia.

The shipments of howitzers and other artillery stem from a need for the commandos and mechanized infantry units to protect themselves, said one Western military analyst based in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Baghdad and Tehran said today that all Iraqi troops had withdrawn from Iranian territory occupied during their 1980-88 war, Reuter reported. An exchange of prisoners of war continued as the two countries moved toward a final resolution of the war, as proposed earlier this month by Saddam.