To chants of "Long live the emir!" Kuwait's royal leader convened a conference of Kuwaitis in exile Saturday, declaring that the meeting sent a stern message to Baghdad.

Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah choked with emotion at the cheers from more than 1,000 Kuwaiti refugees who gathered in Jiddah for the three-day conference."With this meeting, oh sons of Kuwait, you are affirming to the unjust enemy and to the entire world the unity and cohesion of the people of Kuwait in confronting the occupation and categorically rejecting it," he said. "This conference is the most eloquent response to your enemy who usurped your homeland."

The crown prince and prime minister, Sheik Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, also addressed the session and promised more democracy in Kuwait, once it is liberated.

"Liberation is our top priority, and after liberation we have much to achieve," Sheik Saad told the gathering. "Kuwait will reinforce democracy and consolidate popular participation. The political leadership will respond to the aspirations of the people regarding the reorganization of the Kuwaiti house."

Outside Jiddah's Conference Palace, hundreds of youths raised banners of support for the emir and shouted slogans calling for the liberation of Kuwait.

They included critics that before the invasion demanded a return to the Western-style democracy prescribed in the 1962 constitution.

The Kuwaiti parliament was suspended in 1986 because of pressure from opposition deputies at a time when the country was the target of a terrorist campaign meant to break Kuwait's support for Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

Among the items to be discussed in Jiddah are ways to intensify the opposition to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2 and annexation.

Conference members are expected to reject any Iraqi attempt to include a national referendum on Kuwait's future as part of a political solution to the gulf crisis.