Political and business heavyweights, including Paul A. Volcker, barnstormed Capitol Hill Wednesday in support of congressional funding for the Asian economic rescue.

"It is a question of American leadership in the world," the former Federal Reserve Board chairman said. "The success of the American economy depends on a harmonious world economy."

"It is very clear our national interest is at stake," agreed Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman of American International Group Inc.

Without U.S. leadership, the financial crisis could spread and wreck investor confidence worldwide, said Mr. Greenberg, who helped organize the pro-funding push.

Peter G. Peterson, chairman of Blackstone Group, a New York-based merchant banking firm, noted that BankAmerica Corp., Chase Manhattan Corp., and Citicorp all reported significant losses from Asian loans.

"Clearly there has been some pain," said Mr. Peterson. In-vestors world- wide have lost $700 billion, he said.

The all-day blitz began with an open letter to Congress that ran in two national newspapers from a bipartisan coalition of 139 corporate leaders and former government officials, urging lawmakers to approve additional funding for the International Monetary Fund.

The letter-whose signers included former Presidents Carter and Ford, former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger-said the Asian crisis, if left unaddressed, could lead to a $300 billion trade deficit this year and kill jobs.

The group also backed improved disclosure, increased supervision, and other reforms to the world's financial system. However, the signers said debate on these controversial issues should be postponed until after IMF funding is approved.

Heads of five U.S. banking organizations-BankAmerica, Chase Manhattan, Banc One Corp., Bankers Trust New York Corp., and NationsBank Corp.-signed the letter, along with top insurance and securities executives. However, no bankers attended the news conference because organizers feared their presence would appear self-serving, a source said.

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