Two bipartisan congressional delegations, one from the House and the other from the Senate, are scheduled to leave Friday for a four-day swing through the Middle East with stops planned in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt.

The delegations' trips, worked out over the past two weeks in negotiations between the House and Senate leaderships and the Bush administration, were organized with the intent to limit the number of House and Senate members authorized to visit Saudi Arabia during the early days of the U.S. military force deployment, congressional sources said.

Dozens of members of Congress, including several who have tight reelection races this fall, have been pushing for an opportunity to visit U.S. troops, according to the House and Senate sources.

"A picture of a member with troops from his state or district is page one back home," one House aide said, asking not to be identified.

The administration and congressional leaders wanted to avoid disrupting military activities that such congressional visits cause as well as a "chorus of disparate voices" that inevitably would come from individual members arriving in Saudi Arabia during the August recess, a source said.

House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) was so concerned that he sent a letter to committee chairmen telling them not to authorize new trips to the Persian Gulf region after U.S. troops landed in Saudi Arabia following Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) "turned down dozens of requests," an aide said yesterday. The "floodgates will open after Oct. 15," when the next congressional recess is expected to begin, one Democrat predicted yesterday.

The only apparent breaches in the self-imposed congressional travel ban came from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and later from a group of primarily Republican senators led by Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.). Dole had been working out a bipartisan Senate trip with Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D-Maine).

The Lautenberg trip was cited by Republican spokesmen when asked about the timing of Dole's trip. "When Lautenberg went in, all bets were off," according to a GOP aide.

Lautenberg was traveling privately in Israel on Aug. 20, when he decided to go to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to spokesman Steven H. Schlein.

Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittees on defense and foreign assistance, had his trip authorized by telephone from the Middle East through an aide to Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), Schlein said.

Lautenberg was unaware of any agreement between Mitchell and Dole to keep individual members from Saudi Arabia, although a U.S. Embassy official in Cairo showed him "a vague {State Department} cable inviting him to join the leadership trip the next week," Schlein said.

"He didn't know how to read that," Schlein said, and a couple of hours later he was on the plane to Saudi Arabia.

Dole, accompanied by five Republican senators, was scheduled to leave last Saturday on a previously planned trip to Eastern Europe when he learned about Lautenberg's visit to Saudi Arabia. He spoke to Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney to have his itinerary changed and flew to Italy where he picked up Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Nunn, who was in Europe to attend a conference, was invited on Saturday to meet the Dole group in Italy and join in on Saudi and Egyptian stops.

Nunn's presence permitted Dole to call his group bipartisan, a GOP source said. The source added that Mitchell knew the Dole group was going to the Persian Gulf.

The bipartisan group of about 30 House members leaving this week will be headed by House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.). The group includes the three ranking members -- two Democrats and one Republican -- from committees with primary responsibility for defense, foreign policy, appropriations and intelligence.

Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will lead the Senate group that includes at least 11 Democratic and Republican members of key panels.