PARIS, OCT. 30 -- French ex-hostages arriving home early today from Iraq said that the hundreds of captives who remain in Iraq and Kuwait face difficult physical conditions and low morale.

Some of the more than 260 former hostages added new details on the plight of foreigners being used by Iraq as "human shields." They said they had formed close ties with their fellow detainees, making it difficult to leave them behind, and they urged the world to maintain pressure on Iraq.

Jean-Michel Leturcq, held with 10 other men at an arms factory 30 miles south of Baghdad, said that while the physical conditions of detention were bearable, the morale of the hostages -- including two Americans -- was very low.

"They all cried on the day I left," Leturcq said by telephone from his home in Amiens. He left the factory for Baghdad Saturday. "They were happy that I was leaving, but they all broke down on that day and cried. Until that day we were all pretty stoic.

"In morale, they are not well," the 35-year-old nursery school teacher said. "The Americans are pretty much all right because they have a fairly tough spirit; the English a bit less, and the Japanese are not well at all. It all depended on your morale from the beginning."

Claude Henry, an electrician with a French company in Kuwait, said he was moved to four different military targets after being arrested by Iraqi troops in Kuwait at the end of August. Like many other prisoners, he said he lost 20 pounds since his arrest, eating mainly rice and a small piece of meat for dinner, and tea with an egg for breakfast.

At one point, Henry said, he was held with an American who had been shot in the arm by Iraqi soldiers while trying to flee arrest. Other hostages reported that the American risks losing his arm because Iraqi doctors do not have the means to treat him.

Henry, 53, said that when he was held at a petrochemical factory, "we had no space to move around. We could play ping-pong but we couldn't walk or run. I was there for eight days, then I was sent to another site, a chemical factory at Falouja. . . . We were like the Jews who were taken by the Germans in '42 and '43. They woke us up at 2 in the morning to move us, two or three from the group, without explaining anything."

He said the Americans and British were under closer surveillance than the other hostages, because of their goverments' tough political stance. American hostages were constantly followed by Iraqi guards, he said, but otherwise their treatment was the same.

Leturcq, a passenger on a British Airways flight to Malaysia that stopped in Kuwait City during the invasion, said he and the other hostages lived in six converted offices at a shell factory, with barred windows and tall metal sheets blocking the Iraqi workers from view. The hostages moved between their rooms and a small outdoor exercise area, with the radio as their only contact with the outside world.

Leturcq said they were told by their Iraqi guards that they were "heroes of peace," and that the hostages freely insulted the guards in response. He said the hardest moment for his group was on Oct. 20, when Briton Ron Duffy had a heart attack and died. "He was reading in his room and said he had indigestion, then he just fell over, and died," said Leturcq. "He had been depressed. I'm sure he'd be alive now if he wasn't being held there."

French nationals who had been kept for three months in Kuwait City said the atmosphere was one of constant tension and fear. A 40-year-old Frenchman who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Westerners hidden in Kuwait live on food stored from the early days of the invasion and from Kuwaitis, Indians and Filipinos who risk their lives to bring them food.

The Frenchman, who left Kuwait for Baghdad airport Monday afternoon, lived with a compatriot and two British men in a nearly abandoned building in Kuwait City. He said there were frequent Iraqi patrols and that they lived in constant fear of detection. He changed apartments once since the day of the Iraqi invasion, but otherwise had not ventured outdoors in three months.

An engineer, he described a "fragile" tie among the foreigners and Kuwaitis in occupied Kuwait: "There is a very delicate equilibrium in place to transmit information and things between each other. It's a chain of goodwill. The people suspected of this are executed immediately. People who were helping others are risking their lives." He said he had no first-hand knowledge of Iraqi executions.

He described Kuwait as a "dead city," and said that he rarely heard gunfire and saw little street activity. He and the other men listened to the radio constantly, waiting for a sign of international action on Kuwait's behalf.

"Each person perceives the situation differently, but I said, 'Something has to happen, someone has to attack, something.' The risk of dying is perhaps greater {then}, but at least we would die for something. It's fatal for your morale to feel that you are left there alone. In Kuwait we felt sort of abandoned. It's dramatized because we were isolated. But we did feel {it}.

"We hear a lot of talk -- we ask ourselves, are the Americans there to defend their citizens, the right of Kuwaitis to have territory, the right of the gulf not to be threatened, or their regional interests? I feel they are defending their interests."

The Frenchman said he ate mostly rice and pasta while hidden, and that people who helped them would bring them produce that was sporadically available in the market, sometimes tomatoes or eggs.

All of the ex-hostages interviewed were worried about the safety of other foreigners they left behind, particularly those in Kuwait City.

The Foreign Ministry said there were 327 French citizens in Iraq or Kuwait and 262 came on the flight, along with 19 other foreigners. Iraq released all French hostages because of what it described as France's "constructive" stance on the Persian Gulf crisis, a move seen as an effort to split France from the international alliance against Iraq. Those French left behind stayed either by choice or because they had dual Iraqi or Lebanese citizenship, the spokesman said.

Among the French who arrived today were seven diplomats from the now vacant French Embassy in Kuwait City. The Foreign Ministry called in the Iraqi ambassador today to receive a "firm protest" over Iraqi moves, including cutting off water and electricity, that forced evacuation of the embassy, said a ministry spokesman.