MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ A Navy seaman, saying ''I couldn't go back,'' is fighting any assignment to the Persian Gulf because a cousin is believed to be among those killed there aboard the USS Stark.

''It would haunt me to be there,'' Navy technician Scott Palisi, 23, said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Long Beach Naval Station, Calif., where he is awaiting the Navy's response to his request.

Palisi's cousin, Terance Weldon, was one of 37 listed as killed in the May 27 missile attack by an Iraqi warplane. His body has never been found.

The Palisi and Weldon families were so close that for two years, when Palisi was in high school, they lived together in a home in Selden about 30 miles east of here, Palisi said.

''Terry was my brother,'' he said. ''I really loved him. I miss Terry a lot ... Terry died there and I couldn't go back.''

Palisi, whose effort to stay out of the gulf has won the support of his captain and two congressmen, said he expects to hear within two weeks where he must serve the final six months of his four-year hitch.

He was aboard the USS Crommelin, a guided missile frigate like the Stark, in the Indian Ocean when the Stark was attacked.

Palisi said he had trouble getting an emergency leave because he was not considered part of Weldon's immediate family but his captain, Cmdr. Thomas McGuinley, cut through the red tape, enabling him to return.

''My mental state was not real good,'' he recalled.

Palisi said he hopes to be near home because so many members of his family are so distressed they could suffer nervous breakdowns as they await word on whether Weldon's body has been found.

Rep. George Hochbrueckner, D-N.Y., said Palisi's situation was ''unique and deserves a unique decision.''

''I don't see it as creating any great precedent that the Navy might fear,'' said the congressman, who served three years in the Navy and is working with Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y., on Palisi's behalf.

Palisi's father, Sal, said his son feels hurt because he helped persuade Weldon to join the Navy, along with Weldon's 22-year-old brother, Sean, who finished his four-year hitch three months ago.

Scott Palisi's wife, Jodie, also was in the Navy. They have a 10-month-old daughter.

''Our thought was that our family did more than its share and we just want Scott safe,'' his father said.