Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in a videotaped message, warned Americans yesterday that President Bush "is sending your sons to war for no purpose save fatal arrogance" and said the conflict would be like "repeating the Vietnam experience, only this time . . . more violent and more casualties."

The Iraqi leader's statements came in a 76-minute, rambling speech made in response to Bush's eight-minute message delivered on Iraqi television 10 days ago. Iraq wanted it broadcast in full, but major networks showed only brief excerpts except for Cable News Network, which said it would air the entire tape at 1 a.m.

Saddam, speaking in Arabic with English subtitles supplied by Iraqi officials, alternated between assurances that Iraq wanted peace and bellicose assertions that Bush would start a war that Iraq would end. Saddam said Bush was "promoting a form of neo-Nazism" by claiming that the United States was leading the free world.

Saddam repeated previous arguments justifying Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and blamed Bush for placing "you, along with us and the whole of mankind, on the edge of a bottomless abyss."

However, Saddam admitted for the first time that he was holding Americans and other foreigners hostage in order to deter an attack. "We are human and feel the pain of having to take these measures," he said, but added that the detentions "as guests in the houses of our staff" were needed to avert war.

Saddam said that the international blockade against Iraq would put thousands of children in danger of malnutrition and death and said that international law allowed for the detention of citizens of nations participating in the blockade. He said his actions were more justified than those of the United States when it "detained its own citizens" of Japanese origin in internment camps during World War II.

In the speech, which was delivered to the State Department yesterday by Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Mashat, Saddam repeated earlier calls for a conference to discuss regional problems, comparing the annexation of Kuwait to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The taped message was needed, he said, because Bush refused his request for a televised debate that would expose the administration's "lies and false allegations." If Bush "had truth on his side," Saddam asked, "why would he evade debate?"

Bush "is placing you in a critically embarrassing situation," Saddam said, by claiming to support democracy but backing "the most backward of governments." Saddam said Kuwait's former rulers "spent their time amassing wealth and women."

Kuwait had conspired with other nations, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, in "economic aggression" that was "a kind of war against Iraq."

Kuwait had been part of Iraq under the Ottoman Empire until Britain "severed {it} . . . like an infant separated from its mother," he said. Peaceful attempts by both Iraq and the Kuwaiti legislature to reunite the two countries had failed, he said.

Even so, Iraq had maintained normal relations with Kuwait until it engaged with other nations, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, in a "black conspiracy against Iraq," he said.

Repeated requests for a change in Kuwaiti policies and actions were rebuffed, he said, and Iraq issued numerous warnings before attacking. "Having seen all doors closed, failure of negotiations, we were left with no other alternative but to take action to rectify a historical injustice."