AMMAN, JORDAN, SEPT. 23 -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened today to destroy the oil fields of the Middle East and draw Israel into a war if Iraq finds itself "strangled" by the sanctions imposed by the United Nations in response to its invasion of Kuwait.

The harsh statement, issued by Iraq's ruling Revolution Command Council, marked the first time Baghdad has threatened an aggressive military response to the embargo in advance of any offensive thrust from the U.S.-led multinational force forming in the Persian Gulf region.

"We would not allow whoever it is to strangle the people of Iraq without strangling him in return," the statement said. "If we feel the Iraqi people are choking and someone is dealing them a bloody blow, we will strangle all the perpetrators," it said, adding that "all oil installations will be incapacitated," and "oil, the region and Israel" will be the victims of the resulting "deluge."

In Saudi Arabia, exiled Kuwaiti Oil Minister Rasheed Ameeri and two of his top production managers charged in interviews that Iraqi forces have attached plastic explosives to most of the country's 1,000 producing wells, a move that they said raised fears Iraq might touch off a firestorm in the oil fields that could take months, if not years, to extinguish and clean up.

Earlier, Kuwaiti Finance Minister Ali Khalifa Sabah had played down the danger to the oil wells from explosives, but today the top oil officials expressed much greater alarm, Washington Post staff writer Patrick E. Tyler reported from Taif, Saudi Arabia.

The technical obstacles to putting out oil well fires in Kuwait's fields stem from the extremely high pressures -- more than 2,000 pounds per square inch -- in the oil-bearing rock cavities.

Detonations within the oil wells could set off massive, chain-reaction explosions and fires that would suck up most of the oxygen in the immediate vicinity and require costly diagonal drilling to plug the wells, the officials said.

"There is previous experience with one or two oil wells blowing up naturally, but an intentional explosion of several wells -- it has never happened before," said Abdel-Krim Rabah, the manager of production development at the Kuwait Oil Co.

In Saddam's continued defiance of mounting world pressure to pull his troops out of Kuwait, the Iraqi leader insisted that his country's acquisition of the much smaller, neighboring emirate is final. He accused Kuwait's "former rulers" of making their land a "base for counter-plots and of placing their stolen wealth in the service of all that is harmful and satanic."

U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, speaking on the ABC-TV news program "This Week with David Brinkley," called Saddam's declaration of Iraq's permanent occupation of Kuwait "unacceptable" and said the statements were "not very helpful for those who want a peaceful solution of the problem."

But Perez de Cuellar said that "at the same time we have to keep trying. We have to make every effort" to achieve "a peaceful and just solution."

He said that he will meet in the next few days with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and ask him "for some clarifications about the very tough position of his country."

In Tehran today, Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and visiting Syrian President Hafez Assad continued to insist that Iraq relinquish Kuwait and remove its forces.

But Rafsanjani, speaking at a banquet for Assad, who has sent troops to the multinational force arrayed against Iraq, criticized U.S. proposals for a new security structure in the gulf region as an "arrogant scheme."

"We should not allow foreign forces and the hegemonist powers who are all geared up to tighten their grip on vital oil resources, the Persian Gulf {and} the Red Sea . . . to remain in the region," the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, speaking on the NBC-TV news show "Meet the Press," said that he saw no room for negotiations with the government of Iraq because they would only "reward Saddam Hussein's unprovoked aggressions."

Saddam's threats today underscored Iraq's apparent growing concern about economic suffocation as the U.N. Security Council approaches agreement on imposing an air blockade to tighten the global trade sanctions. Under a draft resolution sought by the United States and European nations, all planes flying in or out of Iraq or occupied Kuwait would be subject to inspection.

The Iraqi statement charged the United States with seeking "hegemony" over the world and accused it of "sinking to the lowest rung of humanity with its great criminal acts against Iraq and the Arab nation." It cited a U.S. "occupation of the holy Islamic and Arab shrines in Nejd and Hejaz" in Saudi Arabia -- areas where the United States has said it has no troops -- "and the embargo against Iraqis."

The declaration by the ruling council, which Saddam heads, urged the United States to "search for the remnants of wisdom within itself . . . and pull out of the land of the Arabs and the holy Moslem grounds."

It charged that the United States is "pushing the whole region, and not only Iraq, but probably the entire world, led by its own sons, whom {President} Bush brought to the area, to a devastating fall to depths from which the region will not see the light for dozens of years."

Israel, the statement said "will be engulfed in what will sweep other nations where evil and the occupiers rest."

Syria's Assad, the only Arab leader who stood by Iran in its eight-year war against Iraq, is visiting Tehran for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution there. Despite years of mutual suspicion and enmity with the United States, Assad has committed Syrian troops to the U.S.-led military buildup in the region.

His trip to Tehran is aimed at pressing Iran's leaders not to break with the sanctions against Iraq. It comes amid reports of a possible deal under which Iran would allow Iraq to use an Iranian pipeline to pump Iraqi crude oil for export, thereby skirting the embargo.

It was not clear whether Rafsanjani's remarks were intended as a rebuff to Western signals to Iran to join some form of regional security arrangement or another expression of traditional hostility to foreign-power domination.

Syrian and Iranian leaders have found common ground in denouncing Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion and subsequent annexation of Kuwait, but both seem uncomfortable with the idea of a prolonged American military presence in the Persian Gulf region.

After Baker met with Syrian leaders in Damascus 10 days ago, Washington made it plain that it would like Assad to goad Tehran into firming up its resolve against its former foe, Iraq, and steering the country away from improving ties with Baghdad.

Assad agreed with his Iranian host that Western troops should leave the region once Kuwait is freed from Iraqi occupation.

"We declare and stress, without any ambiguity, that we will not accept the presence of foreign troops in this region after the Kuwaiti problem is resolved," Assad said.

The Iranian news agency quoted him as saying: "We are witnessing the presence of foreign troops in the region as a result of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, in a way that we did not expect."

Rafsanjani, while calling Iraq's conquest of Kuwait unjustifiable, said Iran is ready to cooperate with regional countries to bring peace and security and keep it free from foreign intervention.

The Associated Press and the Reuter news agency reported the following:

Asians flying into Amman, Jordan, from Iraq today reported pandemonium at Baghdad airport, with desperate refugees fighting to board overbooked planes.

Screaming children were pushed to the floor as more than 50 people fought to board one of two Iraqi jumbo jets leaving for the Jordanian capital, they said. Many East Asian awaiting flights home were sleeping on the floor with their bags piled nearby.

The two Iraqi Boeing 747s a day to Amman are the only scheduled flights out of Baghdad. Most countries halted flights and banned Iraqi Airways after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

A chartered DC-10 carrying 112 people fleeing Kuwait -- 55 of them Americans -- landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina Sunday evening. Officials have said no further U.S.-chartered evacuation flights are scheduled.

Meanwhile, Iraq apologized to France over the storming 10 days ago of its ambassador's residence in Kuwait City, saying Iraqi troops thought the building belonged to a member of Kuwait's ousted ruling family.

The official Iraqi news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying Iraq had conducted a "thorough investigation" following French protests. The intrusion prompted Paris to send ground troops and armored units to the Persian Gulf and sparked a round of diplomatic expulsions.

"Soldiers patrolling the city made a mistake in identifying the building," the spokesman said.

He said a French diplomat seized during the incident was allowed to return to his duties despite Baghdad's order lifting diplomatic immunity from envoys still in Kuwait.

Three other French citizens seized with him were flown to Baghdad and are staying at a hotel, the spokesman said.

"No measures were taken against them apart from preventing them, like other Westerners, from leaving Baghdad," he said.