State Rep. Bob Anderton, D-Salt Lake, voiced a plea to Saddam Hussein Saturday afternoon: "Let our people go."

He has a special reason for the message - his brother, Richard, is one of the Americans held hostage in the U.S. embassy in Kuwait City.Anderton spoke at a town meeting sponsored by Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, in the Salt Lake County Commission chambers, 2001 S. State. The meeting was to discuss the American military buildup in the Middle East, and the comments were overwhelmingly against military action.

Remarkably, not one person spoke in favor of an American offensive, during the two hours that Owens' town meeting was scheduled to last (comments in favor might have come later as some speakers continued to take the floor after the meeting originally was supposed to end).

Richard Anderton, his wife, Bonnie, and their daughter, Jennifer, made their way to the embassy on Aug. 3, the day after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

The Richard Andertons lived near Denver until they moved to Kuwait to take a civilian job, a couple of months before Saddam's tanks rolled across the border. Bonnie and Jennifer escaped when Jesse Jackson brought some hostages out in September.

"Talk of war frightens me, obviously," Bob Anderton said. But he said talk of a never-ending period of sanctions was even more frightening.

"They're literally suffering from a slow form of starvation," he said of the Americans in the embassy.

Owens told Anderton he believes that if an American pre-emptive strike takes place, "the hostages' lives will be forfeited."

Anderton said, "We in this country, no matter how close we are to the issue, have the luxury of waiting for sanctions to work." But the hostages don't have the luxury of time, he added.

"We don't want the hostages forgotten," Anderton said.

"I want to know who is a hostage - I think it's us, I really do," said Margaret Wilson, a Salt Lake resident who hammered at the point that many American casualties might occur should war break out in the Middle East.

Repeatedly, Owens said he is in favor of an international force to contain Saddam's aggression but against an American offensive strike. He said the United States had taken the high moral ground in the confrontation.

The working class is "going to be the ones to go shed our blood for oil," declared Michael Ziouras, who is a member of the Young Socialists Alliance. "We've got to stop the aggressor . . . No blood for oil. Bring the troops home."

Owens responded, "I do not support an American military offensive."

He said he hoped there would be no war. Although public opinion polls show Americans to believe by a 70-20 margin that war will break out, he said he is with the hopeful 20 percent who don't think so.

"As a mother of a son on his way to Saudi Arabia, I'm not willing to trade his blood for oil," said Evelyn Terrell, of Murray.

Mohamed Nimer, who is a Palestinian from the West Bank, attacked Israel's occupation of that area. He said he still has relatives in the region, and the Israelis are "just waiting for them to die and they will take their land and give it to some Russians" immigrating to Israel.

A law student who lives in Salt Lake City, he said his studies will be finished next year, and at that time, American law will require him to leave. But Israel will not allow him to return to the West Bank, he added.

"I do not know where to go," Nimer said. "What would you say to my case, and what would you say to the 21/2 million Palestinians who have lived in refugee camps there for the past 40 years?"

Owens invited him to his office to discuss that situation and said he will bring it up during his trip to the Mideast, which starts on Wednesday.