NEW YORK (AP) _ A number of large corporations said Thursday they have banned or sharply restricted employee travel to most destinations outside the United States due to the heightened chance of war in the Persian Gulf.

The sweeping restrictions, ranging from one week to indefinite durations, were meant to protect workers from terrorist attacks or other Middle East- related violence.

Safety fears intensified after Wednesday's collapse of U.S.-Iraq diplomatic talks, which broke down less than one week before the U.N.'s Jan. 15 deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

Restrictions imposed by Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp., Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. and other major corporations could deal yet another blow to the troubled airline industry.

In addition to restricting new trips, 3M said it was ordering all employees currently traveling in foreign countries to return home immediately, including U.S.-based employees in Europe and European employees in the United States.

The Maplewood, Minn.-based company told its 87,000 worldwide employees that all corporate travel between the United States and Europe was being banned indefinitely.

A 3M spokesman said he did not know how many workers were affected by the company's recall of traveling workers. The company employs 21,000 workers in the 13 European nations that account for about $3 billion in annual sales.

A Ford spokesman said starting Monday, one day before the Jan. 15 deadline, its 150,000 U.S. employees were barred from traveling to any countries except Canada and Mexico. The ban was to last until Jan. 20.

Prior to Monday, worker travel abroad will be limited to business trips judged to be of a ''critical nature'' by both employees and management, said spokesman Dick Routh.

That determination will by aided by Ford security specialists assessing the dangers of destinations, Routh said, noting the company has operations in 24 countries outside the United States, as well as car dealers in more than 200 nations and territories.

Effective Wednesday, the day of the failed U.S.-Iraq talks, Chrysler Corp. ''pulled the plug on international travel'' including all destinations except Canada and Mexico, said Alan Miller, a spokesman for the Highland Park, Mich.-based company. The ban is indefinite and will be reassessed as the Middle East crisis unfolds, he said.

The company has 91,600 U.S. employees and 36,000 abroad. In addition to Canada and Mexico, Chrysler has operations in Germany and other European countries.

A spokesman at General Motors Corp. said the Middle East crisis has prompted ''precautions'' on international travel for the Detroit company's 750,000 worldwide employees, but declined to detail those restrictions.

''We're asking folks to review the necessity and timing of their travel,'' said GM spokesman Thomas Pyden. GM has operations in 34 countries.

A spokeswoman at Armonk, N.Y.-based International Business Machines Corp. likewise declined to be specific about the company's travel restrictions.

''In light of recent developments in the Middle East, we've taken certain precautions regarding employees' travel plans,'' said IBM spokeswoman Rita Black.

At 3M, a spokesman said the company would try to compensate for the lack of travel by having employees communicate more through telephone and computer links. Travel ''will be approved on an exception basis only,'' the company said.

The overall flight restrictions, coming when business travel normally accelerates after the Christmas and New Year's holidays, could exacerbate already severe airline industry problems.

Pan Am Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors this week, partly blamed its fiscal troubles on a falloff in travel and rising fuel prices from the Middle East crisis.

Peggy Siqveland, manager of Travel Professionals, said her St. Paul Minn.- based travel chain was sending a memo to corporate accounts asking them to reconsider travel to Europe because of potential terrorist attacks.

''It will affect our international corporate travel business dramatically,'' said Siqveland, noting that European-bound travelers comprise roughly 50 percent of the chain's bookings.