WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration continued its verbal assault against Saddam Hussein yesterday by calling the Iraqi president's overtures to Iran and his offer of free oil to Third World countries acts of "desperation" aimed at undermining the trade embargo imposed on Iraq.
The tough talk, which underscored Washington's desire to show that international solidarity can make economic sanctions against Baghdad work, came as a special United Nations Security Council committee, meeting in New York for the seventh time in three weeks, discussed whether the U.N.-imposed trade embargo should be softened to allow the delivery of food to Iraq.
The committee is not likely to decide the issue until U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar or international experts can verify recent statements by President Hussein that food shortages are causing the deaths of Iraqi children, said a diplomatic source familiar with the meetings.
President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev declared at their summit meeting Sunday that food supplies could be delivered to Iraq under the close supervision ofinternational aid organizations. It would be up to the United Nations to define the "humanitarian circumstances" that would warrant such deliveries, they said.
At the White House yesterday, spokesman Marlin Fitzwater dismissed the Iraqi president's latest statements as "just another effort to try to separate countries, try to get support wherever he can find it. The man is desperate, reaching out
wherever he can."
"The desperation attempts at reaching out to Iran and this free oil for the Third World indicates that the pressure is pinching him someplace," Mr. Fitzwater said, calling the oil offer, in particular, "a transparent attempt to deflect the focus of world attention from [Saddam Hussein's] blatant aggression against another country."
"Such maneuvers have not worked in the past and will not work this time," Mr. Fitzwater said.
Although Mr. Hussein offered to give unspecified developing countries free supplies of oil so that no money would change hands, such a loophole in the embargo on trade does not exist, Mr. Fitzwater said.
The Security Council resolution to block trade with Iraq "makes quite clear that all commodities and products originating in Iraq or Kuwait are prohibited from importation anywhere," he said. "It does not delineate between free exchanges and those paid for."
The membership of the special santions committee is drawn from the current security council.