Iraq threatens to hit Israel, oil facilities Hussein pledges attacks if embargo 'strangles' people

September 24, 1990|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Sun Staff Correspondent

AMMAN, Jordan -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threatened yesterday to launch attacks against Israel and oil installations throughout the region if economic sanctions enforced by the United States and its allies begin to "strangle" Iraq.

Mr. Hussein's warning was a hint that the United Nations embargo was in fact having an effect on Iraq's economy and that the leadership was worried by the prospect of an expansion of the U.N. sanctions to include an air blockade.

Until now, Iraq has threatened military action only in response to an attack by the Western and Arab forces massing in Saudi Arabia. The latest statement, broadcast on state radio and read in the name of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, was the first warning that the sanctions alone could be cause for an all-out war.

"We will never allow anybody, whomever he may be, to strangle the people of Iraq without having himself strangled," the statement said. "If we feel that the Iraqi people are being strangled, we will strangle all those who are the cause of this."

If Iraq decided to attack, the statement said, "oil, the region and Israel will be the victims of the resulting deluge."

Mr. Hussein also repeated a pledge that no amount of pressure would force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, the action demanded by the United States as a condition for a negotiated settlement. "Our decision is eternal and irreversible under any circumstances," he said.

U.N. Security Council members are expected to vote this week on imposing an air blockade to close most of the remaining entry points into Iraq. As formulated in discussions led by the United States, the blockade would permit air forces to intercept civilian aircraft suspected of violating the trade embargo and forcing them to land for inspections.

U.N. members approved an embargo against Iraq Aug. 6, four days after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. Enforced by an armada of warships in the Persian Gulf and a shutdown of Iraq's oil pipelines to Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the sanctions have cut off all but a trickle of Iraq's oil exports and blocked imports of food.

[In Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz said yesterday that he would boycott this week's meeting of the U.N. General Assembly because the United States had barred his official plane from landing in New York.

[The State Department told Iraq's ambassador in Washington Thursday that Mr. Aziz must travel to New York on a commercial flight, Mr. Aziz told U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in a letter. Mr. Aziz said yesterday that it was important for him to travel aboard an Iraqi plane for security reasons.]

In another development, Saudi Arabia confirmed that it was expelling diplomats from Iraq, Jordan and Yemen, and it indirectly accused Iraq of having recruited the Jordanians and Yemenis to spy on Baghdad's behalf.

"Those diplomats carried out activities which undermined the security of the kingdom and its safety," the official Saudi news agency said. "So the authorities were obliged to ask the respective governments to recall those diplomats and to limit the number of personnel in these missions."

Saudi Arabia's action was an unmistakable sign of anger at the failure of Jordan and Yemen to break with Iraq. Jordan's King Hussein has retained economic links with Iraq and has allowed large pro-Iraqi street demonstrations. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, has been Iraq's most prominent public supporter and has declared he would ignore an air embargo.

In the seven weeks since Iraq's takeover of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia has abruptly abandoned its traditional extra-cautious diplomacy in favor of aggressively asserting its own interests. After decades of taking action only after finding an Arab consensus, it is demanding that other states choose sides and then punishing those who side with its opponents.

Jordanian officials have denied that the Saudi expulsions had occurred and have tried to minimize the importance of the estrangement from the country that has been one of King Hussein's closest allies and the source of billions of dollars in grants.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Moudar Badran said that the government had received no notification of any expulsions and that news reports about Saudi Arabia's action "lacked seriousness."

On Saturday, a few hours before Saudi Arabia's announcement, King Hussein said the expulsions were "a fabricated story."

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