MOSCOW, DEC. 4 -- Iraq today said it would allow all 3,232 Soviet nationals in the country to leave following Kremlin threats to use military force to protect its citizens from harm in any Persian Gulf military confrontation

Soviet spokesmen reacted skeptically to the announcement by Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council, saying that they had not been informed officially of Iraq's decision. Moscow has accused Baghdad of failing to live up to earlier promises to release all Soviet citizens stranded in Iraq after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

"We have not yet had signals that would inspire such a hope," said Vitaly Ignatenko, spokesman for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Soviet news media reported Monday that Iraq had given 1,000 Soviet citizens permission to leave the country.

The Iraqi announcement today said that all Soviet citizens still in Iraq would be allowed to leave the country as of Wednesday, provided the Soviet government pays full compensation for breaking their work contracts. Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitaly Churkin said that the Kremlin is not in principle opposed to paying compensation.

Most Soviet citizens in Iraq are construction workers and oil and gas experts employed on projects dating from the period when the Soviet Union was Baghdad's principal superpower patron. At the time of the invasion of Kuwait, there were also 200 Soviet military experts in Iraq, advising the Iraqi army on the use of Soviet-made weaponry, but many have since been withdrawn.

Iraqi radio said that the Revolutionary Command Council, which is chaired by President Saddam Hussein, would allow the Soviets to depart in order to eliminate "distortion and ambiguity" over their status. Last Sunday, Iraq accused the Soviet Union of planning to use the presence of its nationals in Iraq as a pretext for sending troops to the Persian Gulf.

{A British news report Tuesday said Iraq might be willing to withdraw from most of Kuwait and accept the return of the Kuwaiti royal family if Iraq was allowed to keep the large Rumailah oil field that straddles the border of the two countries, the Associated Press reported. Sky-TV in Britain said Saddam has been detailing his negotiating position on the gulf crisis in private meetings with mediators that include Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov. In Washington, a senior U.S. official said the report was news to the Bush administration, which had heard nothing about any such negotiations.

{Saddam met in Baghdad Tuesday with Jordan's King Hussein, Yemeni Vice President Ali Salem Baidh and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, Reuter reported. The official Iraqi News Agency said the four leaders welcomed planned U.S.-Iraqi talks, aimed at averting war in the gulf.

{Despite diplomatic moves toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis, the newspaper of Iraq's ruling Baath party warned that war between the United States and Iraq "means throwing U.S. forces into an annihilating, losing and costly military adventure," Reuter reported.}

The Kremlin's patience with Baghdad over the issue of Soviet worker finally snapped last week after Moscow joined the United States in voting for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

The Soviet news agency Tass quoted Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze as saying that the Kremlin had no intention of taking part in military action in the gulf but "we will take all the necessary steps {if Soviet citizens are threatened}. Everybody should know that we will not hesitate to use force to protect our citizens."

The Foreign Ministry today issued a statement reiterating Shevardnadze's position.