AMMAN, JORDAN, NOV. 30 -- The Iraqi leadership refrained from any official response tonight to President Bush's offer to hold direct talks on the Persian Gulf crisis, but several Iraqi officials expressed relief that a negotiated settlement of the crisis might now be possible.

Officials from the information and foreign ministries reached by telephone in the Iraqi capital said they were "very happy" to hear the news, but could not provide any formal response from the Iraqi government. Several individual Iraqis were also enthusiastic and predicted that President Saddam Hussein would reciprocate with conciliatory gestures.

Iraq's ambassador to Paris, Abdul Razak Hashimi, welcomed Bush's proposal in an interview with the BBC. "This is a very important step and we hope it is going to achieve what we are all striving for: negotiations instead of beating the drums of war," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Although there was no official response from Baghdad, Kuwaiti and Saudi officials said they saw the Iraqi delivery of food and cigarettes to the besieged U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, apparently this morning, and expectations of another delivery on Saturday, as a signal from Iraq that it is seeking to avoid confrontation with the United States.

U.S. officials have said that Security Council members discussed the idea of a diplomatic initiative toward Baghdad in talks Thursday night with Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and it was likely that word of those discussions was passed on to Baghdad.

In Amman, where Jordanian officials have expressed some sympathy during the crisis for Saddam's position, Bush's press conference, monitored on Cable News Network, was praised and called an inducement to Iraq to leave Kuwait.

"If the momentum continues, this is great news for Jordan. It is a success for our point of view and an encouraging development," said Taher Masri, the head of the Foreign Relations Committee in Jordan's Parliament and a former foreign minister.

"Bush's decision to invite {Iraqi Foreign Minister} Tariq Aziz and to send James Baker at a later date is a courageous decision that complies with the world's hope for peace," said a senior Jordanian official close to the royal court.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan had urged Bush to begin a dialogue on the eve of Thursday's U.N. Security Council vote that gave Iraq an ultimatum to pull out of Kuwait by Jan. 15 or face war.

In an official statement today, Iraq rejected the ultimatum and showed no sign that it would withdraw its troops from Kuwait to avoid war. Baghdad branded the U.N. resolution "illegal and invalid."

"It is disgraceful and tarnishes with shame the nations which helped issue it," said a statement broadcast by the Iraqi leadership. It dismissed the U.N. document as "an American resolution from start to finish" and accused Washington of bribing and pressuring council members to support it.

A senior Jordanian official forecast a positive Iraqi move. "I think they will withdraw because Saddam does not believe in tactics. He has a strategic vision and withdrawal would be the culmination of this crisis. Withdrawal will be an end for obtaining all his demands," the official said.

"It is very important and dramatic and will at least lead to a start of the dialogue," a Jordanian cabinet minister said upon hearing of Bush's proposals tonight. "We have always asked for dialogue. Though it is not really clear {what the outcome will be}, it is a very good step."

In recent weeks, the Iraqis have repeatedly said that they were willing to "make political sacrifices" and were ready "to discuss everything," one Jordanian columnist said.

But reaction from Baghdad today to the U.N. resolution repeated Saddam's insistence, first spelled out 10 days after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, that any talks on Kuwait should be linked to other Middle East issues.

"The resolutions against Iraq were not motivated by international legitimacy but are meant to give an umbrella to aggression against the Arab people while at the same time ignoring injustice done to other people," said Ahmed Lawzi, former prime minister and speaker of Jordan's Senate.

The Jordanian press this morning also denounced the U.N. vote authorizing war against Iraq, calling it a U.S. attack on the Arab world. Some newspapers urged all Arabs to unite against Washington and its allies.

"The resolution leaves no choice for Iraq and for millions of Arabs and Moslems but to prepare for the duel and to put the area on fire and to burn the interests of the enemies, big and little," Jordan's leading daily, ar-Rai, said in an editorial. "This is not the battle of Saddam on his own, it is the battle of millions of Arabs."