Bush Cold Shoulders Saddam Proposal; Heads for Troop Homecoming
Mar. 17, 1991
HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) _ President Bush turned a cold shoulder Sunday to a promise by Saddam Hussein for democratic reforms in war-devastated Iraq.
''Not interested,'' Bush said with a shrug when reporters asked if he had read Saddam's televised address in which he promised multiparty democracy for the first time in his 12-year rule. Previous promises by Saddam to open up his government have gone unfulfilled.
Bush was flying to Sumter, S.C., later Sunday for his first welcome home ceremony for troops returning from the Gulf War against Iraq. It was the president's last stop before returning to Washington at the end of a five-day journey of postwar diplomacy.
The welcome home ceremony at the Sumter High School Memorial Stadium was billed as a community tribute to returning troops. The city, in central South Carolina, is home to Shaw Air Force Base, which sent more than 2,000 troops and 45 F-16 fighter jets to the Gulf War.
Among the troops returning to Shaw last week were members of the 17th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Fighter Squadron and the 17th Aircraft Maintenance United.
Bush squeezed in 18 holes of golf - his second round in three days - before leaving Bermuda, where he met Saturday with British Prime Minister John Major. A sudden rain briefly drenched his entourage but then the sun emerged.
Bush also conferred with Bermuda Premier John Swan.
''I'm looking forward to going to Sumter,'' Bush told his golfing partners in Bermuda. ''I hope it doesn't rain.'' But rain was promised.
''It's the first one for me, to go to any of these homecomings,'' said Bush, the first president to visit Sumter since John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Bush's diplomatic journey began Wednesday with talks in Ottawa with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He saw French President Francois Mitterrand on the Caribbean island of Martinique on Thursday and then flew to Bermuda to see Major.
The talks were intended to help shape new proposals for reconciling longstanding differences between Israel and its Arab neighbors. At a windup news conference Saturday, Bush said a single approach had not emerged for the Middle East problem.
Throughout his trip, Bush heaped criticism on Saddam. Bush said he could not envision normal relations with Iraq under Saddam because ''his credibility is zilch, zero, zed.''
''If he's proclaiming Iraq will be a democratic nation, fine,'' Bush told reporters after Saddam's speech Saturday. ''The proof of that pudding is in the eating.''