Charter Flights, Convoy Raise Hopes of Evacuation Speed-Up With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq raised hopes Tuesday for speeding up the evacuation of stranded Western women and children by allowing two charter flights to leave Baghdad and a bus convoy to take Britons out of Kuwait.
Two Iraqi Airways Boeing 727s chartered by West Germany and the United States flew nearly 300 foreigners, mostly women and children, to Amman, Jordan on Tuesday.
Western diplomats said a third jetliner, chartered by France, would leave Baghdad for the Jordanian capital on Wednesday.
The Canadian Charge d’Affaires Dale Carl said Canada had chartered an Iraqi Airways Boeing 707 to fly 175 Westerners - all but 30 of them Canadians - from Kuwait City to Baghdad and then on Thursday to Ankara, Turkey. He said Iraq had promised to issue exit visas at the Baghdad airport.
The United States hoped to arrange its own charter to carry Americans out of Kuwait within days.
Iraq President Saddam Hussein said last week he would allow Western women and children to leave, but not the men. More than 700 Western detainees - women, children and a few ill men - left aboard two Iraqi Airways flights on Saturday. Some also have traveled across the desert to Jordan.
But the departures of others have been complicated by Iraq’s refusal to allow foreign airlines to land in Baghdad and by long delays in processing exit permits. About 11,000 Westerners are now believed stranded in Kuwait and Iraq.
The American charter on Tuesday carried at least 138 passengers, including 25 Americans, 44 French and 36 British nationals, as well as four Australians and two Canadians.
Its departure from Baghdad was delayed for 4 1/2 hours because of technical problems with the aircraft, Iraqi authorities said. A second plane had to be substituted.
″I have to assume there were technical problems and assume there was no ill will,″ said one Western diplomat.
The West German charter included 135 West German nationals among its passengers.
Also Tuesday, a convoy carrying 306 British women and children in seven buses and one car left Kuwait in the morning to make the grueling drive across the desert to Baghdad, a British diplomat said.
″We are pretty sure that they’re on their way out,″ said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. ″When they arrive we will start processing their exit visas, their travel documents.″
British diplomats said they hoped to arrange a charter flight direct to London, or failing that to Amman, for the Britons in the convoy.
″We just want to get them out,″ said the diplomat. ″If there is no charter then we will send them out in batches on regularly scheduled commercial flights to Amman. As a last resort we will move them out by convoy to Jordan.″
The BBC World Service began carrying announcements late Monday advising British women and children about the bus convoy. The embassy also used a system of volunteer wardens to get the word out to Britons in hiding.
The women and children were told to gather at a shopping center parking lot, and to bring plenty of water along for the 400-mile drive up the Tigris River basin to Baghdad.
Western diplomats in Baghdad described the situation in occupied Kuwait as grim since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion and have been pushing to speed the evacuation of women and children.
They are not sure how much longer their countries’ diplomats in Kuwait can hold on to assist people in leaving. Diplomats who have rejected Iraqi demands to move to Baghdad are stranded in their embassies with the power and water cut off and food supplies diminishing.
A Norwegian diplomat in Iraq said the Norwegian Foreign Ministry has instructed Ambassador Hans Wilhelm Longva and the two remaining staff members to leave the embassy in Kuwait City on Thursday and travel to Baghdad.
On Monday, Western diplomats said Iraq had complicated evacuation plans by rescinding landing rights in Baghdad for foreign jetliners. The Iraqis linked their decision to the denial of landing rights abroad to Iraqi planes under the U.N. trade embargo. Baghdad said evacuees must be flown out on chartered Iraqi Airways planes.
The Canadian charter would be the first full flight of evacuees from Kuwait City to Baghdad. On Saturday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson arranged to fly about 30 Americans out of Kuwait to connect with a special evacuation flight in Baghdad.
More than 2,000 Americans, including an estimated 1,400 women and children, are unaccounted for in Kuwait and thought to be in hiding.
Iraq has said that Western men cannot leave as long as a threat is posed by the massive U.S.-led military buildup across the border in Saudi Arabia.
Naji al-Hadithi, director-general of the Iraqi information ministry, said ″thousands of foreign guests″ have been relocated at potential military targets ″to make the Americans think twice about attacking.″
Iraq has warned it will hang any Kuwaitis caught harboring Westerners.
But a diplomatic source said Tuesday that the Kuwaiti resistance has countered the Iraqi threat by warning it will kill anyone who turns in people harboring Westerners.