BAGHDAD, IRAQ, Jan. 10 -- Nearly every Western embassy in Baghdad either closed its doors today or finished preparations to evacuate staff members within the next 48 hours following Wednesday's collapse of U.S.-Iraqi diplomatic efforts to resolve the Persian Gulf crisis.

The stalemate in the U.S.-Iraqi talks in Geneva sent a shock wave of disbelief through the Iraqi capital. As diplomats hurriedly packed their bags and loaded their cars, Iraqis surged to the gasoline pumps in hopes of topping off fuel tanks and filling reserve canisters in anticipation of war.

Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz briefed President Saddam Hussein and Iraq's ruling Revolution Command Council on his talks with Secretary of State James A. Baker III, according to an Iraqi News Agency (INA) report cited by Reuter. INA said the briefing covered "the American intransigence on the situation in the gulf."

Saddam showed little apparent concern for the war activity, strolling in a street of Baghdad with visiting Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda. INA said they walked along the city's oldest thoroughfare, Rasheed Street, "amid the cheers and shouts of support" of the people.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan addressed a gathering of Moslem clerics from around the world. They reacted with cheers, applause and even a few standing ovations when Farrakhan declared his solidarity with Iraq in the looming gulf confrontation, saying of Bush, "If he goes on the way he is going, it will lead to the ruin of the United States."

Five of the British Embassy's six diplomatic staff members departed today in a convoy of Land Rovers to Amman, Jordan, where they reportedly arrived later in the day. The diplomat remaining behind, Consul General Christopher Seeger, stayed to monitor the trial of a British citizen who was caught trying to escape Iraq four months ago, when the government took thousands of foreigners hostage to forestall attack after its Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

Most other Western embassies, including that of the United States, have arranged to evacuate their staff members Saturday or shortly thereafter. The United States has chartered an Iraqi Airways Boeing 727 to ferry Western diplomats and some journalists to Frankfurt on Saturday.

Most of the embassies are planning to evacuate by Saturday, Western diplomats said, because of persistent rumors that Iraq plans to close its air space and possibly even its borders by Sunday.

An Iraqi official, who asked not to be identified, said no foreign journalist or diplomat who wanted to leave would be prevented from doing so, even if war breaks out after the Jan. 15 U.N. deadline for Iraq to withdraw its troops from Kuwait.

U.S. Embassy charge d'affaires Joseph C. Wilson IV said today that he has "full confidence that the {Iraqi} government is going to respect the appropriate conventions" regarding safe, unrestricted passage for diplomats attempting to leave the country. He declined to state what his orders are for closing the embassy, saying only that "we are reviewing all options."

"There is still the possibility of a peaceful outcome to this despite the apparent deadlock of the talks" in Geneva, Wilson said. "Win, lose or draw, one of my ambitions would be to come back and to build a relationship built on mutual trust and respect."

The Iraqi official said his country hopes to encourage Western journalists to stay even after their embassies have closed. He said the Information Ministry plans to install extra telephone lines to facilitate communications for foreign journalists. Some Western embassies, including the United States, have been permitting journalists to use embassy telephones to file their stories abroad because of severe restrictions placed by Iraq on the use of international telephone lines.

At one embassy, staff members offered to give gas masks and protective suits for chemical-weapons attack to expatriates who were staying behind after the embassy's evacuation.

In a day full of chaotic events, the scene at a gas station in Baghdad's Mansur district provided the most graphic display of how the rumor of war is affecting average Iraqis. More than 70 cars stood in line at the station, waiting up to two hours for a fill-up. People who wanted to avoid the wait stood in line at another pump, dragging large metal and plastic containers.