SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A former general who is Argentina's most wanted military fugitive was arrested Saturday near San Francisco by deputy U.S. marshals.

Carlos Guillermo Suarez Mason is wanted on charges of false imprisonment and for allegedly inflicting torture on prisoners while he was an Argentine government official, said Steve Boyle, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington.

Suarez Mason also is accused of misappropriation of Argentine government funds.

Boyle said U.S. authorities discovered that Suarez Mason, 63, had been in contact with his son in the New York City area. Officials then subpoenaed telephone records and traced calls to an apartment in Foster City, Calif., about 20 miles south of San Francisco.

Deputy marshals, assisted by Foster City police officers, made the arrest without incident at an apartment in Foster City at 10:30 a.m., Boyle said.

Suarez Mason is to be arraigned Monday before a federal magistrate in San Francisco. The arrest was based on a federal warrant issued Jan. 22 in New York at the Argentine government's request.

Shortly after Argentine President Raul Alfonsin took office in December 1983, ending nearly eight years of rightist military rule, he ordered that Suarez Mason be tried for alleged human rights violations.

Suarez Mason was stripped of all military rank and privilege in April 1984, after being declared ''in rebellion'' for ignoring several summonses to appear before a military tribunal that wanted to question him about the abduction, torture and murder of suspected leftists in the late 1970s.

At least 9,000 people disappeared in a campaign against leftist subversion waged by the armed forces regime that seized power in 1976.

Suarez Mason was commander of the Buenos Aires-based First Army Corps from 1976 to 1978, when he was named head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Following his retirement in 1981, he was named president of the state oil monopoly, a post he held until 1982.

The misappropriation of funds charges stem from his oil industry post.