The commanders of Iraq's air force and anti-aircraft defense have been executed at the order of Saddam Hussein, an independent Soviet news agency reported Friday.

The agency, Interfax, cited "well-informed" sources in the Defense Ministry for the report.A Defense Ministry spokesman reached by The Associated Press Friday denied the Interfax report, which was also denied by the Iraqi embassy's press attache.

"It is part of the psychological war against Iraq," the attache was quoted as saying. Interfax filed two brief dispatches on the report.

The Soviet Union, an ally of Iraq before Saddam seized Kuwait, still has more than 40 diplomats at its Baghdad embassy. Several Soviet journalists are also in Iraq, according to the Foreign Ministry.

In London on Friday, Sir David Craig, Britain's military chief, was asked about the Interfax report and said he could not confirm it.

"But we do have reports over recent weeks that Saddam Hussein has taken very abrupt action against those commanders who have not found favor with him," he said.

Before the Persian Gulf war began, Iraq's air force commander was Lt. Gen. Muzahim Saab Hassan. There has been no reference to an air-defense commander.

During Iraq's 1980-88 war with Iran, Saddam frequently arrested or executed field commanders who either failed to carry out his orders or suffered major defeats by Iranians.

Since the current crisis began, some Iraqi military defectors have reported that scores of officers, including senior men, were executed following the invasion of Kuwait because they opposed it.

Iraqi dissidents have made similar claims. Iraq has denied these reports.

There has been no independent confirmation of the executions, although diplomats in Baghdad have said that some senior officers have not been seen for some time.