BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ An Iraqi Airways charter jet flew to Kuwait City today to pick up about 400 Americans scheduled to fly home from Baghdad later in the day, a U.S. Embassy official said.

The Americans, trapped in Kuwait since last month's Iraqi invasion, will stop in Baghdad to receive exit visas before changing charter flights and continuing to London, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The flight is scheduled to take women, children and American men of Arab origin, the official said. Eighteen Britons also would be among the Westerners on board, the Foreign Office in London said.

Since the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait prompted U.S. and other forces to deploy in the Persian Gulf region, Iraq has held Americans and other Westerners as human shields at potential military targets.

However, late last month Baghdad agreed to begin releasing mostly women and children.

The U.S. Embassy official said he hoped the Boeing 747, chartered by the U.S. government, would leave Baghdad around 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT). However, delays have been the norm in previous flight evacuating Westerners from Kuwait and Iraq.

It would be the second time in three days that a flight brought Westerners out of Iraq.

On Wednesday 288 Americans, 70 Britons and 70 people of other nationalities left Iraq aboard a jumbo jet jointly chartered by the American and British governments. Officials earlier said the flight carried 300 Americans. No explanation was given for the discrepancy.

A separate flight the same day took 10 ailing and elderly Italian men to Rome.

The Voice of America, the U.S. government-run shortwave radio network, has been broadcasting appeals to American women and children in Kuwait to join the evacuation flight or another one planned for Saturday, the embassy official said. He did not know how many evacuees might take the Saturday flight.

About 6,500 Westerners remain stranded in Iraq and Kuwait, many of them in hiding.

They are believed to include about 1,500 Americans in Kuwait, according to the U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad. At least 2,500 Americans were in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion, the official said.

Palestinian diplomats in Baghdad said late Thursday that an estimated 1,000 Palestinians a day who had fled after the invasion are returning to Kuwait. The diplomats did not have a total on the number of Palestinians who had returned.