U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar may offer to send a U.N. peacekeeping force to Kuwait if Iraq agrees to withdraw, according to diplomats. Perez de Cuellar will meet with European leaders today in Geneva before traveling to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Saturday.
The secretary general received expressions of support from the United States, the Soviet Union and Japan. “I’m pleased he’s going there,” said President Bush, who spoke with Perez de Cuellar by telephone.
France encouraged the United States to make “a little gesture” to Iraq by supporting a Middle East peace conference that would address the Palestinian issue.
The United States urged Americans still in Iraq, including journalists, to flee the country. Meanwhile, more nations withdrew their diplomats from Baghdad, and the United Nations evacuated hundreds of personnel from the region.
Both houses of Congress began debate on a resolution that would authorize the use of U.S. military force if Iraq remains in Kuwait after Tuesday’s U.N. deadline for withdrawal. Lawmakers also will consider a competing measure urging the Admininstration to give sanctions more time to work.
A Times survey showed that the Senate and the House are closely divided over whether to authorize immediate military action to drive Iraq from Kuwait, with most Republicans supporting the President’s position and Democrats deeply split. Final votes are expected Saturday.
Training exercises involving mock assaults on replicas of Iraqi fortifications in Saudi Arabia indicate that as many as half the participating U.S. troops could be killed or wounded in such attacks, military officials said. The defenses include trenches filled with burning oil.
An amphibious battle group carrying about 10,000 Marines and Navy personnel entered the Persian Gulf, and the Midway aircraft carrier group will soon join it as American forces prepare for possible military action, the Pentagon said.
U.S. Forces in the Gulf:
Troops in the region: 370,000+
Planned deployment: 430,000
Tanks in Saudi Arabia: 1,000+
Armored fighting vehicles: 2,000+