WASHINGTON -- President Bush condemned yesterday as "outrageous" the Iraqi raid at the French Embassy in Kuwait and personally volunteered to French President Francois Mitterrand "the full support of the United States" in response.
Though the French response to the raid on what has traditionally been considered sovereign ground would not be determined until today, Mr. Bush said, he telephoned Mr. Mitterrand and "told him that I would do anything I could to support whatever he decides to do."
The president also confirmed that a U.S. Navy ship had fired across the bow of an Iraqi tanker yesterday to make it stop and allow a boarding party to inspect its cargo. The ship was later allowed to proceed after it was found to be empty.
"But," the president said, "it did require a bit of a warning before the captain pulled over and permitted the boarding party to have a look."
The embassy raid and similar ones at the Belgian and Canadian missions "add up to clear violations of international law," Mr. Bush said, "and I think they do raise tensions." But he would not say he had discussed a military response with Mr. Mitterrand. Referring to a French Cabinet meeting scheduled for today, he said, "We'll simply wait and see what they recommend."
Answering reporters' questions on the White House lawn before flying to Camp David for the weekend, the president denied that he was saber-rattling. Referring to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush said, "When I rattle a saber, the man will know it."
He said, "I still hope that this matter can be peacefully resolved."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "The violation of the foreign diplomatic facilities is another example of Iraq's blatant disregard for the binding resolution of the [U.N.] Security Council, which required Iraq to respect diplomatic and consular missions in Kuwait and their personnel."
Five diplomats at the Canadian ambassador's residence, including the U.S. consul, were detained by the Iraqis for several hours. At the French Embassy, several French citizens were taken.
In his comments to reporters, President Bush also:
*Said he had thanked Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu for his country's commitment of $4 billion for the multinational force in the Middle East and the hard-hit economies of Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.
*Praised Britain for committing to Saudi Arabia, in addition to forces already there, a new armored brigade with helicopters and aircraft.
*Denied reports that U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia might remain there for a long time. He said that they will leave "as soon as they are no longer needed or wanted. ... They will remain not one day longer than is absolutely necessary."