MEXICO CITY, JAN. 25 -- Mexico's ruling party and the nationalist, leftist press are criticizing the U.S. role in the Persian Gulf as an unjust intervention bent on controlling oil there.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI from its Spanish initials) said Thursday, "The Mexican government should promote and support policies aimed at resolving the conflict with justice and through negotiations and keep us on the sidelines of the war and dispute for control over oil."

Party leaders "demand that Mexico's oil resources not be used for waging war, but used instead to halt the negative effects this conflict could have on underdeveloped countries," the statement said. The United States is Mexico's main oil customer.

Last week, the leader of a party to the left of the PRI called for a Mexican boycott of oil sales to all governments allied against Iraq. President Carlos Salinas de Gortari has criticized Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and maintained close U.S. ties but has refused to join the international coalition against Iraq.

Much of the press reflects the thinking of often virulently anti-American leftist intellectuals. In the newspapers, President Bush's words to announce the start of the war, "The liberation of Kuwait has begun," have been ridiculed in dozens of articles here as "hypocritical" and intended to hide the true reason for the "attack against Iraq." The newspapers define that reason as "economic interests" or simply as oil.

Much of the Mexican press refers to the "U.S. war" and rarely mentions that the coalition against Iraq exists, or that several European countries are participating in the war with their own military forces. A cartoon typified the tone of the commentary, showing Bush on the phone with Panamanian President Guillermo Endara, saying, "Mr. Endara, you wouldn't by any chance happen to have a brother?" For Mexicans, the implication was obvious: that Bush would need to replace Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with a "puppet" -- the label often applied here to Endara.