RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA -- As possible military action to liberate Kuwait nears, some Kuwaitis -- including members of the resistance movement who stayed inside the country to fight the Iraqi invaders -- are increasingly critical of the ruling Sabah family, according to several Kuwaiti sources.

At the same time, the government of Emir Jabir Ahmed Sabah is being asked by Kuwaiti opposition groups in exile to immediately form a new government of national unity to oversee Kuwait's reconstruction. There also are complaints that some resistance leaders are not receiving full support from some officials on the outside because they are feared as political rivals in a freed Kuwait.

Crown Prince Saad Abdullah Sabah, Kuwait's prime minister, has held several days of talks on this demand with prominent opposition figures in the Saudi city of Jiddah. No decision has been made, sources there said Sunday.

"We don't think this government can deal with this era, these problems" of Kuwait's reconstruction, one opposition activist said. "I think the last day for this government was the first of August. After the invasion, a new Kuwait was born and we don't think they can deal with this newborn baby."

"The people inside," said one Kuwaiti who left recently, "want to shoot the emir in the foot" for what they perceive as his government's failure to protect them from Iraq's invasion and the brutality that followed.

These developments, surfacing just before the U.N. Security Council's Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait or face war, point to the difficulties the exiled Kuwaiti government -- dominated by the Sabah family -- is likely to face from a traumatized population upon its return.

But they also illustrate what Kuwait has long been known for in the Arab world, despite its traditional ban on political parties and voting by women: an articulate, diverse and pro-democratic citizenry who want a return to their parliamentary-style political system. The parliament was most recently dissolved by the emir in 1986, after having been suspended from 1976 to 1981.

Despite the alienation toward the government, many Kuwaitis say the emir must return because of the Sabah family's historical role in unifying Kuwaitis and its long identification with Kuwaiti nationality.

But the ruling family's total sway over government, entrenched by the emir's 1986 suspension of the 1962 constitution, must end, many Kuwaitis say. Crown Prince Saad has promised a return to that constitution, which provides for an elected parliament and a mainly figurehead role for the emir, much like that played by the queen of England.

The friction between some resistance leaders inside Kuwait, many of them senior police or military officials, and some officials outside appears to revolve around pre-invasion political differences, as well as resistance complaints that there has been a lack of logistical assistance, mainly equipment and money, from exiled officials.

Some Kuwaitis have gone so far as to accuse the officials of hindering these resistance leaders' work because they see them as future political rivals, despite insistence that these fears are unwarranted.

The resistance reportedly is made up of several groups working independently, and it is not clear how many groups are at odds with the exiled Kuwaiti officials. Some groups work more closely with the exiled government, based in Taif, Saudi Arabia, than do others more in tune with the politics of Kuwaiti opposition leaders outside the country.

The resistance's military activities have diminished in recent months, after brutal Iraqi retaliation and arrests of several top activists, according to reports from Kuwait. But it reportedly is still active in its other main effort: giving moral and financial support to the Kuwaiti community to maintain its collective refusal to collaborate with the Iraqis.

It is not clear whether, after Kuwait is returned to independence, there will be a lasting political division among the estimated 200,000 Kuwaitis who have lived through the five-month-old occupation and the 500,000 to 600,000 Kuwaitis living outside their country.

Some Kuwaitis say that after liberation, those who remained in the emirate will have the dominant voice in deciding the political future of their country. "Anyone who stays in his home is more of a hero," a Kuwaiti army officer said.

"I think {the alienation from the Sabah family} is very natural," said a Kuwaiti professional in exile. "People who've seen their relatives killed in front of them will try to have a scapegoat. And I think the government deserves it because they weren't a very good one before the invasion."

Last October, the government rejected opposition demands for a new cabinet-in-exile that would include opposition leaders. Kuwaiti officials were trying to present a unified front against Iraq's aggression and accusations that the Sabah family was corrupt and unrepresentative, and they thought such a move would send the wrong signal to Iraq and Western public opinion, officials said.

As a compromise, the crown prince agreed to appoint a 35-member committee of opposition figures to monitor government decision-making. Dissatisfied, that committee has renewed its demands for a new government. One opposition source said they want the new government formed immediately because they oppose the current government's plans to appoint a military governor, who would rule by martial law to oversee Kuwait's reconstruction.

"This is the thing we don't agree with," the opposition activist said. "We are against martial law without a parliament."

The opposition complains that the exiled government lacks qualified personnel and wants it to make greater use of exiled Kuwaiti professionals.

Opposition leaders also want greater fiscal control over the London-based Kuwait Investment Office, which controls the government's billion-dollar overseas investment portfolio.

The crown prince is said by Kuwaiti sources to be more open to cooperating with the opposition and all resistance groups.