Bush, on Iraqi TV, Warns Nation Is ‘on Brink of War’ : Gulf crisis: The President’s taped message is aired in Baghdad. He says its ‘leadership has miscalculated.’ The regime calls him naive and accuses him of lying.


President Bush sent a firm warning to the Iraqi people Sunday in a taped message aired on Baghdad television: Their country stands “on the brink of war. . . . (The) Iraqi leadership has miscalculated.”

In words clearly designed to drive a wedge between his viewers and President Saddam Hussein’s ruling regime, Bush termed the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait “an unprovoked attack on a small nation that posed no threat to your own.”

“Kuwait was the victim,” he said, “Iraq, the aggressor.”

Standing in front of his desk in the Oval Office, the President, speaking in a somber tone, declared: “Let there be no misunderstanding. We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq. I’ve said many times, and I will repeat right now, our only object is to oppose the invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein.”


His eight-minute message was aired shortly after 7 p.m. in Baghdad, delivered in English with a voice-over translation and subtitles in Arabic. It was taped on Wednesday after an Iraqi information official said that Baghdad would accept and telecast the President’s remarks. The tape was delivered to Baghdad by a U.S. diplomatic courier and handed to Iraqi authorities by the charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

It was not immediately known whether Baghdad television gave advance notice that the Bush message would be aired, but 7 p.m. is a prime TV hour in Arabic countries.

An Iraqi rebuttal, twice as long as the President’s message, followed immediately. Read by a television commentator, it accused Bush of lying and said he was naive to think that the 17 million Iraqis would hold a different view from Hussein, “a son of his country . . . loved by the people.” The commentator denounced Washington and Israel as “the Zionist entity” and accused them of manipulating international response to the invasion. He said the American President wants “to become the dictator of the whole world.”

Later, thousands of Iraqi demonstrators marched through Baghdad’s streets, calling for “Death to Bush, Death to America!”

White House spokesman Sean Walsh said that U.S. diplomats in Baghdad monitored the broadcast and reported that the Iraqi television network showed the tape with no apparent changes or deletions.

He said U.S. officials were struck by the length of the Iraqi official reply.

“The President’s words must have been effective in view of the Iraqis’ extraordinary effort to discredit him,” Walsh said.


Bush spent most of Sunday at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., and held no meetings on the gulf crisis, Walsh added.

Over the weekend, outside opposition to the Iraqi invasion and Hussein continued to mount. In New York early Sunday, the U.N. Security Council adopted another resolution condemning Iraqi actions, specifically the raids on French, Canadian and Belgian diplomatic compounds in Kuwait on Friday. The resolution was passed unanimously, 15-0, with Yemen and Cuba for the first time casting affirmative votes.

French President Francois Mitterrand has called for even tighter economic sanctions on Iraq, and members of the Security Council met privately to consider options.

Bush outlined the opposition in his address to the Iraqis, citing past Security Council resolutions demanding Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait and the Arab League majorities that “have condemned a brother Arab state.”

“Iraq,” he said, “stands isolated and alone.”

Referring the grueling 1980-88 war with Iran, launched by Hussein the year after he assumed the presidency, Bush added: “I do not believe that you, the people of Iraq, want war. You’ve borne untold suffering and hardship. . . . No one knows what Iraq might be today, what prosperity and peace you might now enjoy had your leaders not plunged you into war.

“Now, once again, Iraq finds itself on the brink of war. Once again, the same Iraqi leadership has miscalculated. Once again, the Iraqi people face tragedy.


“Saddam Hussein has told you that Iraqi troops were invited into Kuwait. That’s not true. In fact, in the face of far superior force, the people of Kuwait are bravely resisting this occupation. Your own returning soldiers will tell you the Kuwaitis are fighting valiantly in any way they can.

“Saddam Hussein tells you that this crisis is a struggle between Iraq and America. In fact, it is Iraq against the world.”

In the 45-day confrontation in the Persian Gulf, marked by a massive buildup of Western and allied Arab forces in Saudi Arabia and the gulf sheikdoms, there has been no visible sign of open discontent among the Iraqis. A heavy security apparatus has smothered anti-regime comments since Hussein took power, and the Iraqi president grew in stature during the war against Iran, a popularity encouraged by an official personality cult that has made the president’s face visible on signboards, shops and offices around the country.

“War is not inevitable,” Bush told his audience, hearing the American President for the first time while U.S. television viewers have been inundated by Hussein’s pronouncements on developments. “It is still possible to bring this crisis to a peaceful end. No one--not the American people, not this President--wants war. But there are times when a country, when all countries . . . must stand against aggression.”

Meantime, and in spite of official complaints from Paris, Ottawa and Brussels, Iraq continued Sunday to deny the Friday raids on the three capitals’ embassy compounds in Kuwait.

The official Iraq News Agency quoted an unidentified official as saying only that a French diplomat had been “found in the private home of a female member of Kuwait’s former ruling family” and had been taken back to the embassy compound.


Paris spokesmen said Iraqi soldiers had broken into the ambassador’s residence and taken away the military attache and three French civilians. The attache was later released. An American consular official, among four swept up in the invasion of the Canadian compound, was released along with the others hours after the raids.

In response to the French call for international action, Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, said that a Security Council resolution will be drafted to block Iraq’s air routes. Other diplomats also said that sanctions are planned against nations found to be breaking the trade embargo against Iraq imposed after Baghdad’s occupation of Kuwait. A vote is expected later this week, diplomats said.

France retaliated for the raid on its property by expelling 26 Iraqi military and civilian trainees and three Iraqi students suspected of being secret agents. They left the country Sunday night under police escort on an Air France flight to Amman, Jordan.

Italy on Sunday expelled Baghdad’s military attache in Rome and said it will urge the European Community to take stronger measures against Iraq to force it to pull out of Kuwait, Reuters news agency reported from Rome. Expulsion of the military attache was undertaken as a gesture of protest against Iraqi troops’ violation of diplomatic compounds in Kuwait city.

Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis, who will head a European Community Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels today, said he would urge the community to adopt a joint strategy against Iraq, according to Reuters.

“As current president of the EC we must make a stand in the face of the very grave episode of the break-in into the embassies,” De Michelis told reporters in northern Italy.


“It’s necessary to exert a stronger pressure because I see it unlikely that Hussein will yield to the current conditions,” he said. “A more severe embargo is needed.”

Other gulf-related developments during the weekend included:

* Another U.S.-chartered Iraqi Airways jetliner carrying 165 passengers, including 73 Americans, arrived at Baltimore-Washington Airport on Sunday, after a flight from Baghdad and a stopover in London. More than 350 refugees took the same route the day before.

* The Iraqi Foreign Ministry rejected U.N. management of a Security Council-authorized program to send food to Iraq and Kuwait for humanitarian needs. The council ordered the distribution to be monitored by U.N. relief officials or the Red Cross, and with council approval an Indian freighter left the port of Cochin on Sunday with 10,000 tons of food and medicine for Indian citizens trapped behind Iraqi lines.

The Iraqi statement said the Iraqi Red Crescent Society could handle any humanitarian food distribution and said Baghdad would refuse to accept a visit by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, a representative of U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

“The Iraqi people and government proudly reject dealing with the latest humiliating and unjust resolution,” it said. Bread, the basis of the Iraqi diet, has been rationed for more than two weeks.

* Reuters, quoting unidentified defense sources in Cairo, reported that Egypt has decided to send another 15,000 troops to Saudi Arabia, which would raise its military presence there to 20,000, by far the largest Arab contingent.


* Six naval vessels--three Canadian, two American and one British--entered the Suez Canal on Sunday on their way to the gulf region, a canal official said. The American ships were the auxiliary freighters Cape May and Cape Mohican.

STRATEGY DISAVOWED: The U.S. said Hussein’s family is not being targeted. A6