President Bush told the exiled ruler of Kuwait Friday that "the world is strongly supporting what we all are trying to do" in seeking to force the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Bush complimented Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah on his speech Thursday before the United Nations General Assembly, calling it "a marvelous thing." The president said he could not recall anyone getting a standing ovation, as the emir did, when Bush was U.N. ambassador from 1971 to 1973.

Al-Sabah was warmly greeted by the multinational body. Officials pointedly referred to him as leader of the "state of Kuwait" in defiance of Iraq's annexation of the oil-rich nation. The three member Iraqi delegation walked out.

The United Nations has passed eight resolutions opposing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The emir told the U.N. General Assembly that his country was suffering a crisis that is "a manifold tragedy whose dire consequences affect not only Kuwaitis but other peoples as well."

"In fact, it has jeopardized stability in the world, especially in the gulf region," he said, adding his country now was ruled by "rape, destruction, terror."

Following their Oval Office meeting, Bush and the emir had lunch together while their top aides met in a Cabinet room.

The White House meeting was intended as a clear sign that the United States still regards the 64-year-old emir as the legitimate ruler of Kuwait.The president has consistently insisted that not only must Iraq withdraw his invasion troops from Kuwait but that the emir must be restored to the power he has wielded since 1977.

Iranians stage protest

Meanwhile, Iranians staged massive anti-American demonstrations Friday, chanting "Death To America" and denouncing the U.S.-led forces deployed in the gulf, according to a news report.

Tehran radio, monitored in Nicosia, covered the protest in the Iranian capital live from the streets. It said others were held across the nation.

A reporter said the demonstrations were "an opportunity for the nation to announce its stance on the attack on Kuwait, followed by the U.S. forces' hasty departure to take up positions in Saudi Arabia."

Iran has condemned Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, but it has deplored the U.S.-led multinational forces sent to protect Saudi Arabia and enforce a U.N.-imposed embargo against Baghdad.

Turkey searches planes

Turkey enforced the U.N. air embargo against Iraq by searching planes bound for Baghdad, and Spain and South Korea joined other nations in pulling envoys from embassies besieged by Iraqi troops in Kuwait.

For the past five weeks, Iraqi soldiers have been trying to starve diplomats out of their compounds in Kuwait. At last word, the U.S. ambassador and envoys in more than a dozen other embassies were still holding out.

Baghdad says the embassies must close because Kuwait was annexed and made a province of Iraq. The diplomatic war escalated this month when Iraq raided several Western diplomatic compounds in Kuwait City.

Oil price hits $40 a barrel

In Paris, representatives of the United States and 20 industrialized nations met behind closed doors to discuss how to replenish oil supplies if they are depleted by the gulf crisis.

Oil hit $40 a barrel Thursday, exactly eight weeks after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent his troops into Kuwait and increased his share of world oil reserves to 20 percent. Oil sold for $22 per barrel before the invasion.

Spain on Thursday ordered two Iraqi diplomats to leave the country and denied two others permission to take up their posts.

In Ankara, Turkish officials said two passenger planes, one Indian and one Soviet, landed as ordered at the Adana airport in southern Turkey on Thursday evening.

Officials inspected the planes to make sure no cargo was on board that violates the U.N. economic embargo on Iraq. The planes then flew to Iraq to pick up Soviet and Indian nationals.