DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA, OCT. 23 -- Saudi Arabia still appears resolute in demanding that Iraqi troops withdraw from Kuwait. But there are growing concerns here, expressed by a wide range of Saudi business and professional people, about when American troops will be leaving Saudi Arabia.

"Why did Americans bring all this equipment?" asked a Saudi lawyer in the Red Sea city of Jiddah. "They don't need it to defend Saudi Arabia. . . . Maybe they have come to stay."

The lawyer's comment illustrates a new mood of questioning here nearly three months after the Saudi government invited in U.S. military forces to prevent an Iraqi invasion. Saudis are breathing more easily, but they also are beginning to reflect more soberly on what may come next. While grateful for American protection, they also are troubled by it.

What the skittish Saudis seem to want is that U.S. forces leave the kingdom soon -- but not too soon.

Freed from the worry that Iraqi forces could overrun their territory, some Saudis said they are increasingly concerned about the destruction and loss of lives that might result from a full-scale conflict here between the U.S.-led military forces and the Iraqis.

As a result, they say their government should exhaust all possibilities of reaching a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis, ignited by Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. The Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, made the government's latest gesture in that direction in remarks published Monday in which he said Riyadh would not oppose Kuwaiti territorial concessions to Iraq if Iraq first pulled out of Kuwait.

Many express annoyance that their oil-rich country did not build a military establishment that could have defended Saudi Arabia without foreign assistance. And they fear that even after the current crisis ends, some of the 200,000 American troops now here will remain in Saudi Arabia -- a prospect the Saudis do not relish.

"We were in trouble and the Americans came to help us. People were happy," said a Saudi businessman based in Dhahran. But now, he said, "people . . . say that even if most American {troops} leave" after the crisis, "some of them will stay."

The Saudi government long was mindful of the deep religious and traditional sentiments against the presence of foreign -- and especially non-Moslem -- military forces here in the land of Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina. Since World War II, the government had refused repeated U.S. requests that American forces be stationed here

Both the Saudi and U.S. governments have said the American troops will leave as soon as their defensive mission here is over -- although they do not discuss what might happen if the crisis ends with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still in power.

While Saudis worried about the possibility that U.S. troops might stay on here, they expressed concern, almost in the same breath, that the United States might lose its will to see through a war with Iraq, especially if casualties begin to mount and the fight drags on. Such fears are especially strong among Saudis who have studied in the United States, and who believe they know it well.

"I'm absolutely sure," a Saudi businessman said, "that if there is something like {the terrorist attack on the U.S. Marines barracks in} Lebanon and 200 people get killed, Bush will be in a bad mood. People will be saying why do you send our boys to die? For oil?"

Despite such suspicions and second thoughts, the government still appears to enjoy widespread support for its decision to call in Arab and Western forces that may one day be used to force Iraq out of Kuwait, according to Saudis and Western diplomats.

When Iraqi tanks and troops drove through Kuwait in August to the Saudi border, the Saudis panicked in fear of an imminent strike on their adjacent oil fields. In calling for U.S. help, the Saudis gave little thought to the repercussions of a massive American military presence.

But now that the buildup has permitted them to relax, the Saudis have begun to ponder those repercussions.

A major concern among many middle-aged Saudis, who still remember the poverty of their country before the oil boom, is the threat posed by war to their new-found prosperity. These Saudis are of the generation that built this country's advanced infrastructure of roads, schools, airports and electrical supply lines from scratch. They are loath to see it destroyed.

"Look around you here," said a prominent intellectual in Dhahran. "Do you think we want this all destroyed? We've built it. We've dreamed about it."

Like other Saudis who have lived in the United States, this scholar expressed doubt that "the United States will go to war for us. Why would any U.S. soldier give his life when he doesn't even know where he's sitting in the desert, and doesn't know the country and its people?"

"I would prefer that Saudis defend our country," said a Saudi businessman. "We would defend it better because it's our country."