At least 12 relatives of U.S. hostages held in Iraq, weighing the risks against their desire to be with their sons and husbands, plan to accept Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invitation to visit the captives over the winter holidays.

Some have met with Iraqi diplomats here to secure promises about their safety. Some have mailed the embassy their passports after discussing the matter with other hostage wives. Still others are expecting to make the trip with a group of relatives that has become acquainted through a telephone conference-calling network established by an Illnois-based hostage support group.

"I have everything ready," said Lynda Parker from Vidor, Tex. "I've never traveled overseas, but my husband said {in a phone call from Iraq} 'if that's what it takes, come on over.' Our government will not negotiate or even do anything to obtain the hostages' release. That leaves me no option."

Since Saddam's Oct. 31 offer to allow families to visit their captive husbands and sons, hostage wives have gone through an emotional tug-of-war over whether to accept.

On the one side is the risk of being taken hostage themselves, of being in Iraq when President Bush launches a military attack, of being used by Saddam in a clever game of propaganda, and of going against the advice of the U.S. government.

On the other side is their heartfelt desire to be with their mates, the possibility of securing their release through personal appeals to the Iraqis and, for some, a belief that the U.S. government has rejected serious negotiations for a peaceful settlement and is moving too quickly toward war.

"Actually, I don't even weigh them {the risks} anymore," said Willie Carr of North Richland Hills, Tex. "I'll do it to be with him. If it's propaganda or not, I don't care. If I can talk to him, I'd be grateful."

The State Department has strongly discouraged Americans from going to Iraq, charging that Saddam "is heartlessly toying with the anguish of family members and the sympathies of all civilized people for the plight of the hostages." Officials have said the United States will not give concessions to gain the hostages' release and have reminded family members that the government cannot guarantee their safety if they decide to go.

But relatives look at recent trips to Iraq by political figures from Japan and West Germany who secured the release of some of their nationals and demand to know why the United States does not follow suit.

"They've assured me they were working for a peaceful solution, but I'm sorry, my husband has been there for three months," said Parker. "Lots of hostages {from other countries} have been released with no concessions granted. My husband should be released."

During the last week, many relatives received regular phone calls from the hostages, as was promised by Iraq. Those calls have also played a factor in their decision on whether to make the trip.

Marjorie Walterscheid of Jacksboro, Tex., said her husband called on Saturday and told her not to come, so she will not.

Betty Seago of Johnson City, Tenn., has not discussed the subject with her husband, Guy, but she knows they will soon. "He wants to know what steps they're taking to get him out," she said. "It's tempting to go, but I don't know if it's wise. If my husband said he really wanted me to go, I would, but I don't like going against the government."

Kim Edwards of Carson City, Nev., recently returned from a brief trip to Baghdad, the first granted to an American by the Iraqis since Saddam made his offer. She was allowed to visit her 52-year-old husband held there, according to a friend. Edwards was not available for comment.

Ten relatives of hostages have decided to make the trip together, said Irene Saba of Coming Home, a support network near Chicago that is helping to organize the trip.

Sarrah Amos of Gilmer, Tex., and Carr traveled here Friday to meet with officials at the Iraqi Embassy to discuss their trip. Both said they were willing to take some risks.

"I think {the U.S. government} is doing the best they can, but I'm an American citizen. If I get a visa, I'll go where I want to go," said Amos. "If they advise you against it, and if you get in trouble, you're on your own."