NEW YORK, SEPT. 9 -- Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Abbas said today he would attack American targets only if the United States struck first at Arab interests, but he urged the overthrow of Arab leaders who have cooperated with Washington in the Persian Gulf crisis.

"We are not thinking of waging any attack on United States interests in the region or in the world unless the United States initiates the attack on the Arab people and on us," Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, said in an interview with Cable News Network taped at an undisclosed site.

"The outbreak of hostilities would inflict great harm on the interests of the world. Consequently, we believe that the chance of settling the crisis by peaceful means is better . . . for us as an Arab nation and is also better for the West and the United States," he said.

The Baghdad-based Abu Abbas is responsible for the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, in which a crippled U.S. passenger was killed. The PLF also has launched raids against Israel, the latest of which led the United States to break off its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Abu Abbas, whose real name is Mohammed Abbas, is a member of the PLO's 15-man executive committee.