TANAJIB, SAUDI ARABIA -- The following is a journalists' pool report filed by Edith M. Lederer of the Associated Press and Tarek Hamada of the Detroit News.

The world's largest oil spill has begun washing ashore near oil processing facilities at Safaniya on Saudi Arabia's northeast Persian Gulf coast, posing a threat to production from the world's fourth largest oil field.

Thick patches of oil from the leading edge of the giant spill started blackening beaches near an oil treatment complex and desalination plant at Safaniya two days ago, according to a Saudi oil official who is directing the fight to contain the spill at Safanyia and at another oil complex here at Tanajib, 12 miles farther south along the Saudi coast.

An official with the Saudi-government owned oil company, Saudi-Aramco, said that Safaniya -- about 100 miles south of the Kuwaiti pumping station where Iraqi forces let loose the flood of crude oil more than two weeks ago -- was "all full of oil," and he told reporters that Tanajib would look the same way "in three days."

Segundo Fernandez, superintendent of the desalination plant at Tanajib, said Aramco would not be able to process oil from wells sited offshore above the Safaniya field if the spill clogged the water intake system at the shoreline oil distillation facilities. At the moment, however, Aramco spokesman Joseph Kenny said the Safaniya field "is in full operation."

Safaniya is the largest offshore oil field in the world and the fourth largest of any kind. A 1978 Rand Corp. report says it has the potential of producing between 1.5 and 2 million barrels a day.

An international media pool organized by the Saudi government had been scheduled to visit the Safaniya facility this week and had already been briefed on Aramco's efforts to prevent oil from seeping into the plants, but the visit was abruptly canceled after the reporters toured Tanajib.

Although the spill has not yet reached here, reporters who visited the beachside facility saw young birds whose wings were so coated with oil that they could not fly and were staggering aimlessly on blackened sand. Another bird, its feathers thick with oil, lay dead in the sand near a large rusting pipe.

"Look at the poor bird. Look at the poor thing," said Suleiman Abdul Aziz Fasad, the maintenance director at Tanajib, as he pointed to one of the small creatures struggling in vain to spread its wings.

There are now specialized spill-surrounding booms, oil-skimming boats, tight-mesh filters and even fishnets protecting the channel leading from the open gulf to the desalination plant.

At Tanajib, multicolored snake-like booms stretched across the turquoise water. Red ones looking like cotton-stuffed bolognas absorb oil on the surface at the shallowest part of the coastline. Yellow and black booms made of plastic and fabric were visible in calm water a little farther from the coast to block the oil from drifitng shoreward. Farthest out were several dark-colored, heavy rubber booms with skirts descending nearly two feet into the choppy water.

"All the area is enveloped in booms," said one Aramco official, who added that crews at Safaniya were still working furiously to extend the floating barriers even farther.

"There is still a chance of more oil because of weather. . . . We have no control over it. We will get oil around us, but we try to minimize the impact on the shoreline, on the water intakes," he said.

Two Aramco employees said the slick would have a devastating effect on this section of the gulf. "The water is full of plants and animals," said Othman Taoud. "We used to eat the fish."

But now, said Taoud and co-worker Jaafar Abdul Karim Munasif, people here have stopped eating gulf fish, which include a popular kind of cod known as hammour.

"{Iraqi leader} Saddam Hussein has gone out of bounds," Munsaif said. "The things he has done aren't the actions of a true Muslim."