MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The Iraqi ambassador has asked for political asylum in Spain, the Foreign Ministry said today, and a newspaper said the action could be part of a wider move by Iraqi diplomats to isolate Saddam Hussein.

Over the weekend, Arshad Tawfiq Ismail turned over weapons to police and burned documents in the garden of his Madrid Embassy before requesting asylum and going into hiding under police protection, the daily ABC reported Tuesday.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the request but said the process of determining whether it would be granted would be ''relatively long.''

He would not comment on the reports the ambassador handed over weapons or that Tawfiq Ismail's wife, Mouzar Hassan Mahmoud Al Taie, and four children ages 20, 18, 13 and 11, were also included in the asylum request.

The embassy was unable or unwilling to provide any information on the ambassador's whereabouts.

ABC said it had not been able to confirm the type or quantity of weapons the ambassador turned over to police.

It said Spanish security and intelligence officials suspected the Iraqi Embassy was ''an active espionage center,'' but did not elaborate.

The ambassador had been an outspoken critic of Spain's support for the U.S.-led allied coalition during the Persian Gulf crisis.

ABC indicated that the government hoped for information from the ambassador about Iraqi espionage and possible terrorist networks in Spain or elsewhere in Europe in exchange for granting him asylum.

The newspaper said sources whom it did not identify suggested Tawfiq Ismail's asylum request might be part of a wider move by Iraqi diplomats.

ABC said Iraq's ambassador to Switzerland had also requested asylum. But the Swiss Justice Ministry said today it was unaware of any petition from the Bern-based Iraqi official.

Several Portuguese newspapers, including the respected weeklies, Expresso and O Independente, have reported that Iraq's ambassador to Lisbon was attempting to secure permanent residence there after having abandoned his post.

Officials at the Portuguese Foreign Ministry would not confirm the report.

ABC said Tawfiq Ismail was a career diplomat who had also held posts in Mexico and Cuba.