CAIRO (AP) _ Russian legislator Alexandra Ochirova was looking for guidance on establishing a national population program. Le Thi Quy wanted ideas on reducing Vietnam's birth rate. Kedibone Gumbi of South Africa hoped for a discussion on empowering women and easing poverty.

All these issues got short shrift at the U.N. population conference because abortion has dominated the debate on and off the floor, leaving the three women feeling cheated.

In fact, it's hard to find a participant who isn't frustrated that one paragraph in a 113-page document has preoccupied 15,000 people for five days.

''The African Women's Caucus is enraged that so much publicity and so much time has been spent on this abortion issue that is not a priority for we African women,'' said Adelle Sock of Gambia, an art teacher who runs a women's finance association.

''We would like more attention put on what women can do to develop themselves,'' she said. ''We're looking at eliminating illiteracy and educating our daughters and our sisters.''

Ms. Ochirova, who wants family planning available throughout Russia, says the conference should focus on development, women's health, women's rights ''and most important the problem of free choice.''

''It's also very important that every country has a national program - and also very important to have some guidance on the international level on how to organize from the beginning, from zero,'' said Ochirova, a member of the Russian parliament.

Abortion is not a problem in Vietnam, where it is legal, said Mrs. Quy of the Center for Family and Women's Studies. She said her country's concerns - population growth, women marrying at 16 or 17, and educating rural girls - were barely touched on at the conference.

Hanoi, with a population of 2.1 million, had 44,000 deliveries and 70,000 abortions in 1993, said Dr. Khong Ngoc Am, director of a family planning center in the city. ''Now we want to reduce the birth rate and number of abortions and increase the use of contraception.''

For Ms. Gumbi, a member of the African National Congress' Women's League, it is important to look at the issue of ''unsafe abortion'' in Africa.

''The main concern of Africa is more on development and population - not population and development,'' she said.

Dr. Birgul Piyal, a public health physician who works with women in the slums of Ankara, Turkey, said ''it's nonsense to talk about abortion more and more.''

''We should focus on women's status especially. When women are not only educated, but when they have a good role in society ... they can find access, information, everything about family planning methods. They have other things to do than child rearing,'' she said.

Khadija Ali works with a volunteer agency in Somalia.

''I find myself in a situation where people are talking about abortion and family planning when in Somalia people can't even plan for tonight - and that takes me back to the question of development,'' she said.

''If women had been empowered in Somalia - socially, economically and politically - to decide the future of their children, we would not have had this civil war,'' she said.