France, Japan, Soviets Try Diplomacy to Resolve Gulf Crisis
Undated (AP) _ A Soviet envoy carried a secret message from Mikhail Gorbachev to Baghdad and Japan’s prime minister met with Iraq’s No. 2 leader Thursday in new efforts for peace in the Persian Gulf. Five Europeans used a 10-foot boat in a daring escape from Iraq and plans were announced to evacuate more Americans.
The USS Independence - the first American aircraft carrier in the gulf in 16 years - left the waterway after a brief show of force. A Navy warship enforcing a U.N. embargo on Iraq stopped a Sudanese freighter from entering the Gulf of Aqaba, the Pentagon said.
Iraq, hurting from the international sanctions following its Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, planned to argue its case before the United Nations. The world body, which has condemned Iraq’s invasion and placed a naval and air embargo on the country, may consider stronger measures.
At the United Nations, Iraq’s planned address to the General Assembly was postponed after the nation’s U.N. ambassador suffered a nose bleed.
Ambassador Abdul Amir al-Anbari was expected to read a statement in response to President Bush’s suggestion Monday that an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait could lead to ″opportunities″ toward a broad Middle East peace settlement.
The ambassador was taken to a U.N. medical office for treatment and then went home to rest. Cause of the nose bleed was not immediately known.
U.N. officials said the speech would be rescheduled, possibly for Monday.
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, following up on Bush’s suggestion, said Thursday that Israel must be prepared to negotiate the Palestinian problem once Iraq withdraws from Kuwait. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has tried to link a pullout from Kuwait with Israel’s occupation of territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
In the Middle East, other diplomatic attempts to resolve the 2-month-old crisis continued.
Yevgeny Primakov, a senior adviser to Gorbachev, arrived in Baghdad carrying a message from the Soviet president, Soviet diplomatic sources said. Its contents were not disclosed. Tass quoted him as saying in Baghdad that a negotiated solution was needed ″to avoid a military explosion.″
Primakov planned to request that some of about 5,000 Soviet citizens, most oil industry workers, be allowed to leave Iraq, the diplomatic sources said.
Primakov also met early Thursday with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat in Amman, Jordan, and delivered a message from Gorbachev, said a PLO source who requested anonymity.
Arafat met later in Baghdad with Saddam and the two ″agreed that a political solution to the crisis is possible within an Arab context,″ said a PLO source. The PLO has maintained ties with Iraq since the invasion.
Gorbachev said Thursday he saw no reason to send Soviet troops to join the U.S.-led multinational force in the gulf. In response to a query, Gorbachev told reporters in Moscow: ″I think there are already more than enough troops there.″
In the Jordanian capital of Amman, Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan. Ramadan, considered No. 2 to Saddam, rejected a negotiated settlement to the crisis as long as foreign troops remain on Arab soil, Baghdad’s official Iraq News Agency reported.
Kaifu insisted on Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait first, said Shigeo Takenaka, Kaifu’s spokesman. Kaifu, meeting later with Jordan’s King Hussein, granted $250 million in development loans to Jordan, which has been hard-hit by the embargo of Iraq.
French President Francois Mitterrand assured Saudi King Fahd that he backed international efforts to isolate Iraq. The meeting in the Saudi port of Jiddah followed Iraqi attempts to engage France in separate peace talks.
Also in Saudi Arabia, three Britons on Thursday said their fear of Iraq sustained them during their daring escape. The three Britons and two Frenchmen crammed aboard a 10-foot boat and spent 25 hours - much of the time being tossed in 10-foot swells - before being rescued Wednesday.
″It’s a trip I wouldn’t like to do again, but it was well worth it now that I am here,″ Mike Teesdale, 40, told a news conference in the Saudi border town of Khafji. ″My fear was of Iraq, not of the trip.″
It was the first report of Western men escaping Iraq since August. Iraq has allowed hundreds of Western women and children to fly home aboard chartered planes.
The British escapees said they had taken the 10-foot boat through the marshes of southern Iraq, into the Shatt-al-Arab waterway and then the gulf. Teesdale said the men had only a compass to guide them and got lost several times before being picked up by the Saudi coast guard.
The Britons said they had been working on an oil installation near the Iraqi port of Basra and the two Frenchmen were barge masters. They were among a small number of Europeans living on dwindling food supplies and denied permission to leave.
Iraq is holding about 2,200 Westerners hostage in Kuwait and Iraq, some at strategic installations to discourage attack by the U.S.-led military forces that began massing in the region after Iraq seized Kuwait.
Nine of those hostages - all Frenchmen - returned to Paris on Thursday after being freed by Iraq. Also Thursday, 173 Brazilians arrived home after Brazil negotiated their release from Iraq.
The U.S. State Department announced Thursday that another special flight is planned for Wednesday for Americans to leave Iraq and Kuwait. The exact number of Americans expected to board the U.S.-government charter was not disclosed, but a Boeing 747 is scheduled to be used. Some 747s can carry more than 500 passengers.
The last U.S.-sanctioned special flight was Sept. 22, but more Americans with permission to leave Iraq or Kuwait have come forward, said U.S. officials who asked not to be identified.
The State Department said late last month that at least 900 U.S. citizens - mostly men - remained trapped in Kuwait and Iraq.
In Baghdad, a radical Palestinian group loyal to Iraq threatened to launch ″powerful strikes″ if the United States endangers Iraqi aircraft while enforcing the U.N. air embargo on Iraq. The statement by the Arab Liberation Front was the second such threat in as many days by radical Palestinians and heightened fears of a terrorist campaign against the West.
The United States now has about 170,000 troops in Saudi Arabia and on ships in the area, making up most of the estimated 200,000-member international force. The Pentagon says Iraq has massed 460,000 troops in Kuwait since the invasion.
Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said sailors from the Navy frigate Samuel B. Roberts boarded the Sudanese freighter Blue Nile on Thursday.
Williams said the freighter, carrying industrial equipment, was diverted from the Gulf of Aqaba because the ship’s log did not account for all of its cargo. Under the U.N. embargo, shipments to the Jordanian port of Aqaba, a prime port for Iraqi cargo, has been cut severely.
Williams also said the aircraft carrier USS Independence, which left the Persian Gulf two days after entering the waterway, had sucessfully completed its mission ″to demonstrate to our friends and allies in the region that it is possible to put a carrier in the gulf and carry out operations. Those were the goals, and they were accomplished.″
He declined to say what the Independence would do next.