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Six Gulf Nations Hasten to Reject Iraq Pullout Plan : Diplomacy: Hussein’s new offer on Kuwait was both expected and dreaded by the Arab leaders.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Iraq’s conditional offer of withdrawal from Kuwait was one of the scenarios Arab leaders in the Gulf region have feared most, and they hastened Friday to reject it decisively.

Six Arab allies in the anti-Iraq coalition declared the proposal “completely and totally rejected,” and officials from Kuwait’s government-in-exile went from hugs and jubilant exclamations early in the day to a glum pronouncement, when the conditions became clear, that the proposal offered “nothing new.”

“This announcement is simply another link in the chain of deceptions and duplicitous activities which the Iraqi government has been practicing since the invasion of Kuwait,” said Kuwait’s exiled minister of state for Cabinet affairs, Abdul-Rahman Awadi. “It is yet another pathetic attempt at skirting the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

The 35-year-old manager of a housing project for exiled Kuwaitis in Saudi Arabia put it even more bluntly: “Saddam is like a fox. . . . We want to kill him. We want his head. Wanted, live or dead.”

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Privately, Arab leaders said Iraq’s offer to withdraw, on condition of a withdrawal of allied forces from Saudi Arabia and a resolution of longstanding conflicts in Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied territories, represents the chess move they both expected and dreaded from the Iraqi leader.

Timed immediately after an allied air strike against a fortified Baghdad structure that killed about 300 Iraqi civilians, they said, the new proposal allows Hussein to portray himself both as victim and as a man whose peace overtures have been rejected.

It also places many Arab leaders in the position of admitting that they want more than a simple Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait: They want a crippling of the Iraqi regime that will leave Iraq unable to threaten the region after the resolution of the present crisis.

“In fact, my fears, unfortunately, have been realized,” said a highly placed Saudi defense official. Another Saudi official said:

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“There is no way that he can come into a country, start a war, cause massive destruction and then say, ‘OK, I’ve had enough of this game, I’m going home.’ No way. It’s too late. Once you cross the river, you suffer the consequences of your actions.”

A senior Egyptian diplomat admitted that the official U.N. resolutions call only for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait. “But you and I both know that some people won’t be satisfied unless he is driven out,” he said. “I think this ploy will only strengthen that desire.”

Meeting in Cairo, the foreign ministers of the six Persian Gulf countries, plus Egypt and Syria, issued a statement declaring that Iraq was “not serious” because the proposal does not conform with U.N. resolutions for complete and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait.

In fact, they said, the Iraqi proposal “handicaps the peace process . . . since it makes new conditions.”

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A high-ranking Saudi official, who asked not to be identified, called the Iraqi proposal “a hoax” and said that Saudi Arabia will continue to insist on full and unconditional implementation of all U.N. resolutions.

“He’s fighting a losing battle,” he said of Hussein. “Everybody knows what the outcome’s going to be. Everybody knows how it’s going to end, and he’s just trying to play games. If he’s serious, if he had any regard for human life, he would not have staged this whole operation to begin with.”

The senior Egyptian diplomat said he was “elated” when he first heard that Iraq was prepared to withdraw. “But then when it became clear what he (Hussein) really was saying, I realized this was just another effort to play to public opinion and to split the coalition.”

In the exiled Kuwaiti government’s Office of Information in Saudi Arabia, there was a palpable letdown as more and more information filtered in about the nature of Iraq’s proposals.

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With the first word that Iraq was talking of withdrawal, a young Kuwaiti worker draped himself exultantly in the red, green, black and white Kuwaiti flag, while Kuwaiti officials embraced joyfully. A stack of “Free Kuwait” posters, left untouched for weeks, suddenly began disappearing.

“These are going to be a collector’s item soon,” said one television cameraman as he grabbed a handful.

But the Kuwaitis quickly turned grim-faced as news of the conditions about an allied forces pullout and linkage to the Palestinian and Lebanese problems became clear.

“No excitement here,” said the Kuwaiti housing project manager. “Believe me. You can see. Nobody here. This is not the first time he try to make people celebrating. He is playing around. We will get excited when it is 100% good news. Then, you will see the reaction.”

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For three Kuwaiti men lounging in the health club of a Cairo luxury hotel, the Iraqi conditions were expected. “The only way he will leave Kuwait is at the point of a tank,” said one man who called himself Abdel. “Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool.”

Kuwait’s exiled emir, Sheik Jabbar al Ahmed al Sabah, said the initiative “adds further complications to the situation by adding conditions for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.”

“If Saddam Hussein is serious about ending the Gulf War,” the emir added, “he could easily expedite its end by accepting all of the U.N. resolutions. These resolutions do not represent the opinions of only a small number of countries, but the will of the whole world.”

There was more guarded reaction from Arab countries that have leaned toward Iraq in the six-month-old crisis.

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Jordan’s Information Minister Ibrahim Izzedine said he hoped the call would open the door to a comprehensive and just settlement of all Middle East issues.

“We welcome the Iraqi initiative. We call on all parties in the conflict in the Gulf to take a positive stance towards this initiative,” he told Reuters news agency.

A senior official in Jordan, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his government was “not surprised by Iraq’s announcement and was informed beforehand of the Iraqi decision,” the Associated Press reported. The official said that Iraq “was always in favor of enforcing U.N. resolutions but it was not given the chance to maneuver in light of the escalation by the United States.”

There was a definite pro-Iraqi tilt and an effort at self-congratulations in the reaction of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, who told reporters in Cairo that he welcomed “the communique of the Iraq Revolution Council.”

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“I feel happy that the efforts of Libya for persuading Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait succeeded . . . (and) Iraq has a right not to be in a hurry until it gets assured that Kuwait will never be handed to the U.S. or other quarters,” he said.

There is “no justification after this communique” for continuing the allied military operation, the Libyan leader said, adding that “we should be assured of the independence and freedom of Kuwait. We cannot accept that it gets released from occupation into another occupation.”

Murphy reported from Dhahran and Freed reported from Cairo. Staff writer Nick B. Williams Jr., in Jordan, contributed to this story.


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