LONDON, NOV. 1 -- A prominent leader of Iraq's Islamic fundamentalist opposition to President Saddam Hussein has warned that the United States would commit a tragic mistake if it sought to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait by military force.

The West should maintain its economic stranglehold on Iraq, said Sheik Abdul Aziz Hakim, a senior official of the Tehran-based Supreme Assembly of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but allow Iran and Arab states opposed to Saddam to take the lead in forcing him to leave Kuwait.

Analysts said his remarks, made in an interview here this week, reflected growing doubts among some members of the Arab-Western coalition against Iraq over the efficacy and consequences of using military force against Saddam. They cited reports that Syria is reconsidering its role in the alliance and that important elements within the government and financial establishment of Saudi Arabia are also uneasy over the prospect of war.

Hakim blamed the United States and other Western nations for supporting Saddam throughout the 1980s with military expertise, loans and, in some cases, advanced weaponry in his protracted struggle against Iran. He said the West should end what he called its longstanding "hostility" toward the Iraqi Islamic movement and openly support the various opposition forces seeking Saddam's overthrow.

"We have a basic, fundamental difference between our view on how the problem should be tackled and the view of those powerful latecomers to the struggle against Saddam," Hakim said. The use of troops "may force Saddam out of Kuwait but it will create more problems in the long run."

Hakim is the younger brother of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Hakim, leader of the Supreme Assembly, a coalition of six exiled Shiite Moslem groups fighting Saddam's government. Hakim was in London to meet with other opposition groups and make plans for a conference of the groups early next year. The interview offered a rare glimpse of a movement that appears nearly as hostile to the United States as it is to Saddam, and suggested that a post-Saddam Iraq might still find itself alienated from -- and at odds with -- the West.

"Our main problem has been the virtually unlimited support Saddam got from foreign countries and the complete lack of recognition for the {Iraqi} opposition," Hakim said. "If that support had been less, we would have been able to get rid of Saddam and spare the world the disaster looming in front of us."

The key to forcing Saddam to leave Kuwait, he insisted, is to strip away his claims that he is defending Iraqi or Arab interests against outside forces.

"We don't believe Saddam is defending Iraq, the Arab world, or Islam," Hakim said. "This is a sham, a false posture. We feel Saddam's oppression of Moslems in Iraq and his murder and oppression of Islamic leaders demonstrate he is not a true Moslem."

The sheik said Iraq's army suffers from poor morale and desertions. But he predicted that many soldiers would nonetheless strongly resist an American attack because they would see it as foreign intervention. "If the conflict is seen as a defense of national rights or Islamic values, they will fight," he said.

Hakim said his own movement is deeply torn between its strong desire to destroy Saddam and its fear that military action or long-term sanctions would harm the Iraqi people.

"We pray to God that Saddam's crime against Kuwait will not be the cause of destruction for the Iraqi people," he said. "They are Saddam's main victims. They were his hostages long before foreigners became hostages."

Hakim, who is 40, fled Iraq in 1980 after the execution of Mohammed Baqir Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shiite community. He said at least 23 members of his family have been executed by the regime and 20 others have "disappeared" in retaliation for resistance activities inside Iraq. The government contends that members of the Shiite underground movements are "terrorists."

Iran welcomed the fleeing Shiites and supported them with arms and funds during its war with Iraq. But since the 1988 cease-fire, Hakim said, some restrictions have been applied. State-controlled Iranian news media no longer issue tough criticism of Iraq, he said, and his own group is not allowed to infiltrate guerrillas and arms across the border.

Nonetheless, Hakim said, his movement's political activities are unhindered and military camps of several thousand trained guerrillas inside Iran are still in operation. He also said Iran is strictly applying sanctions against Iraq and has taken steps against private smuggling, seizing the assets three weeks ago of a group of Iranian Kurds involved in ferrying supplies across the long and porous Iran-Iraq border.

While some analysts say the Iraqi opposition is deeply divided among Islamic fundamentalist groups, nationalist groups and members of the Kurdish minority, Hakim insisted the various factions are becoming more united. He said that while his movement is striving for an Islamic republic, it wants free elections and would abide by the results.

"We have no intention of imposing any government on Iraq," Hakim said. "It is our religious duty not to go against the will of the people."