MOSCOW, SEPT. 27 -- A military conflict in the Persian Gulf would ally Iran with Iraq and could escalate into a world war, Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, chief of the Soviet general staff, warned in an interview today.

Moiseyev urged the United States to join the Soviet Union in resolving the crisis under a United Nations umbrella. "We have quite enough political means" to bring about a peaceful settlement, he said.

"In case of some military actions, Iran will join the Iraqi side," Moiseyev added. "This would not be simply some kind of conflict; this would be a world war. . . . Such a war will not bring any glory either to the American people or to the people of Iraq."

The Soviet general did not elaborate on why he thought Iran and Iraq, which fought a bloody eight-year war, might join sides. He also did not explain what he meant by "world war," but he drew an analogy to World War I a few minutes later in the interview, indicating that he was concerned that a war beginning with small and seemingly remote events might trigger a much wider conflict.

"The First World War in 1914 also started because of some minor thing," he said. "Today, we should do our utmost to avoid that."

Asked whether he shares the concerns expressed by some Soviet military officers about the buildup of U.S. forces so near the Soviet border, he indicated that he sees no direct threat to the Soviet Union and is more concerned about the volatility and unpredictability of a war in the gulf.

In an hour-long interview shortly before leaving for a tour of U.S military facilities, Moiseyev also said that he had provided technical information to the U.S. Embassy here regarding Soviet-made weapons used by the Iraqi military. Though he declined to elaborate, Moiseyev said he was personally involved in assembling for the Americans a package of information about the weapons.

Although Iraq bought many of its most sophisticated arms -- including SA-6 surface-to-air missiles and MiG fighter planes -- from Moscow, the military utility of Moiseyev's information is unclear. A senior American general recently acknowledged that the United States has long possessed extensive intelligence about such weaponry, a point wryly echoed by Moiseyev, who suggested that "the CIA already has as much information as I do."

Chief of the general staff since December 1988, Moiseyev is the senior commander of Soviet military forces, subordinate only to Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov and President Mikhail Gorbachev. The interview took place in his spacious fifth-floor office within the Soviet Pentagon, a warren of buildings in the Arbat section of central Moscow. A former commander of Soviet army forces in the Far East, Moiseyev will spend nearly a week in Washington, Michigan and California, discussing military, economic and political issues with U.S. officials.

Though addressing a wide range of issues facing the military here, including the contentious subject of reform, Moiseyev appeared most animated about the Persian Gulf.

"It's very hard to imagine {the consequence of war}, especially considering the sophisticated weapons systems that are concentrated in that area on both sides," he said. "I know how high a price the American people paid in Vietnam. . . . We cannot allow bloodshed to happen" in the gulf.

When asked whether any Iraqi provocation -- such as the harming of hostages -- would justify American military action, Moiseyev refused "to make this kind of prognosis." He stressed the utility of collective action through the United Nations.

Moiseyev didn't express the same concern about U.S. forces in the gulf voiced a month ago by Gen. Vladimir Lobov, the Soviet chief of staff of Warsaw Pact forces. Lobov said in an interview with the Soviet news agency Tass that the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops 700 miles from the Soviet Transcaucusus region threatens the strategic balance.

Regarding his own military, Moiseyev asserted that the 1990 spring conscription campaign in the Soviet Union was considerably more successful than assumed by most Western analysts. Only 2,500 conscripts failed to report for mandatory miltary service, compared to 6,600 in 1989, Moiseyev said. The autumn draft call, which begins next week, "will not be worse than the spring draft," he predicted.

A general decline in the military's prestige, particularly in the outlying Soviet republics, had led to a sharp increase in draft evasion in the last two years. Two months ago, the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported that draft resistance was rampant in many regions; the newspaper said that only 7 percent of eligible conscripts in Soviet Armenia and 27 percent in Georgia had reported to draft authorities last spring.

Moiseyev indicated that he does not consider the draft a serious problem, in part because the military here is shrinking and no longer needs the huge pool of conscripts it once required. The general also minimized the impact of widespread ethnic conflicts on the military, denying that combat readiness has been affected by such problems. The Soviet army has been sent to quell several ethnic disturbances in outlying republics in the past year.

In contrast to some Soviet officials who want quick military reform, Moiseyev outlined a plan that would unfold in stages over several years. Noting that the Soviet navy will begin experimenting in January by offering recruits higher pay and better benefits, he said he favors a military composed of both professional soldiers and conscripts. "We don't envision" abolishing the draft, he added, a position that puts him sharply at odds with many military officers and civilian reformers.

As part of his reform effort, Moiseyev said the armed forces will sharply reduce the number of generals and admirals. Disputing Western analysts who have estimated that there are 6,000 general officers in the 4.5 million-member Soviet military, Moiseyev said the number never exceeded 4,500 and is now 1,991.