In a major step toward ending its decade-long conflict with Saddam Hussein, Iran has agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iraq, the official Iranian news agency said today.
Also today, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein--in an apparent attempt to circumvent the U.N. embargo on trade with Iraq--offered to supply oil free of charge to Third World countries in what he said was a gesture of solidarity. However, he said the countries would have to supply their own tankers.
Hussein addressed his message to Third World governments but did not specify the countries he has in mind. He said he was making the offer regardless of the various governments' stands in the Persian Gulf crisis.
"We hereby declare that we are prepared to supply all Third World countries with oil free of charge in accordance with the needs of each country," Hussein said in his latest televised message, read by an announcer.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency said the agreement between Iran and Iraq was reached in a meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and his Iraqi counterpart, Tarik Aziz, who ended a 24-hour visit to Iran today.
Diplomats described Aziz's visit as an attempt by Baghdad to get help in beating international trade sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
There were unconfirmed reports that shipments of rice and flour already were being sent to Iraq via Iran. Such shipments would help ease the economic isolation Iraq has suffered under the U.N.-ordered trade embargo.
Iran's leaders have said they will honor the embargo, although they object to the U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia.
Also today, the Syrian government said it is sending more troops to Saudi Arabia at the request of the desert kingdom.
Diplomatic sources estimate that Syria has already sent 4,000 to 5,000 elite combat troops to the kingdom, and they expected this figure to almost double in the near future.
At the United Nations today, Kuwait's ambassador said Iraqi occupation forces have intensified their crackdown on Kuwaitis, killing civilians in the streets and rounding up others in mass arrests.