Iraq sent Britain a $289,000 hotel bill for 27 Britons who worked on the presidential palace and threatened to move them to strategic sites unless it was paid, the Foreign Office said Tuesday.

The British Embassy in Baghdad will pick up the tab, a Foreign Office spokesman said, and will try to recover the money from Iraq when the Persian Gulf crisis ends.The spokesman said 19 of the construction workers remained at the Babylon and Novotel hotels, two five-star hotels in Baghdad. The other eight workers have been allowed to return to Britain.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Iraq threatened to move the men to strategic sites unless the hotel bill was paid.

The men's employer, Interiors International, had not paid the bill, the Foreign Office spokesman said, adding he did not know why.

The men had been working on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's presidential palace in Baghdad, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, eight British women flew to Jordan Tuesday en route to Iraq, where they hope to meet with Saddam and plead for the release of their relatives.