A National Football League official said yesterday the league still expects to hold its two conference championship games today, and President Bush said he believes the Persian Gulf War should not be a disruption.

The league plans to monitor events in the Middle East until this morning, however, and may alter the schedule if television networks CBS and NBC preempt the games for war coverage.

But Bush said through White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater that "the business of the nation has to continue," so the games should be played as scheduled.

"We don't see any need why people should disrupt their lives any more than necessary," Fitzwater said. "The president's attitude is that . . . the games should go on."

The AFC championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Raiders in Orchard Park, N.Y., is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. on NBC. The NFC game between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants in San Francisco is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m, televised by CBS.

"We expect to play the games," said Joe Browne, an NFL spokesman. Asked to comment about the possible perception that network television executives would be deciding whether the games are played today, Browne said, "Events in the Persian Gulf will dictate in large part whether or not the games are played on Sunday."

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Friday the NFL would not hold the games today if the networks scheduled to broadcast them determine events in the war warrant complete attention.

"I think the commissioner is saying that he wants as many people as possible to see the games," said John McVay, 49ers vice president of football administration. "He's trying to protect the national fan base. If the game is not televised, there are so many people that will not see the game."

Officials from the NFL and the networks met in the host cities to discuss various scenarios. Browne said, "We know the what-ifs," but he declined to outline the league's contingency plans. The league canceled last night's pre-championship game parties because of the war. In addition, McVay said increased security measures are being taken at San Francisco's Candlestick Park. Similar precautions are being taken at the Bills' Rich Stadium.

NBC, CBS and ABC broadcast sporting events as scheduled yesterday, but all left their regular programming for more than a half-hour to televise a news briefing at the Pentagon that began around 3:30 p.m. Locally, CBS was at halftime of the college basketball game between Arizona and Villanova when it aired the news briefing. About five minutes later, NBC broke away from the NHL All-Star Game, which was in the third period.

CBS returned to basketball at about 4:05, but the hockey game was over when NBC resumed normal programming at about 4:10. NBC provided a wrap-up of the hockey game, then moved on to the Hula Bowl college football all-star game. ABC interrupted a pro bowling telecast for the briefing.

A Pentagon news briefing also is scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon. It might not conflict with the end of the AFC championship game broadcast, but it would conflict with the CBS pregame show for the NFC game and possibly the early part of the game.

A source familiar with the networks' thinking said their programming decisions yesterday may not serve as a guide for today because they believe the NFL games are of greater interest.

The networks are in the first year of record-setting, four-year contracts with the NFL. CBS paid a reported $1.05 billion to broadcast NFC games, NBC a reported $800 million to broadcast AFC games. Lengthy interruptions, or postponements, of today's games could hinder their abilities to fulfill advertising obligations. If they were unable to air commercials, it almost certainly would prompt them to seek compensation from the NFL.

Although Tagliabue said Friday the NFL would be monitoring war developments "right up until kickoff on Sunday," Buffalo General Manager Bill Polian said he believed a decision concerning the AFC game would be made well before then. Asked whether the decision would be made more than 90 minutes before game time, Polian replied: "Clearly."

As for potential problems handling a crowd -- expected to number more than 80,000 -- if the game were postponed, Polian said, "The unforeseen cannot be foreseen, but we expect no crowd control problems no matter what happens. Everything is go."

Said San Francisco Coach George Seifert: "I guess we're just thinking about playing the game. . . . If {a postponement} takes place, it takes place. I think the mind-set is that we're going to play the game."

In other developments, the U.S. International Speed Skating Association decided Friday night not to send its men's sprint team to Europe for competition, the association's program director, Katie Class, said. The team had been scheduled to leave Monday. Citing "safety measures," Class declined to comment on the status of U.S. speed skating teams already in Europe.

Also, an Austrian newspaper reported that the International Ski Federation would make a final decision today about whether to hold next week's World Alpine Championships as scheduled. The United States already has withdrawn from the event. Staff writer Mike Freeman contributed to this report from Santa Clara, Calif.