AMMAN, Jordan -- Arab leaders are attempting to put strict limitations on the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf and their own troops' involvement in the multinational force, it was revealed yesterday.
Egyptian and Syrian military commanders said their troops would only defend Saudi Arabia from an Iraqi invasion and would not join any U.S.-led attack to regain Kuwait.
At the same time, Libya and Iran demanded that the foreign forces in the gulf region be removed as soon as an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait was completed.
Col. Muammar el Kadafi of Libya called for the first time for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait but warned that the continued presence of foreign forces afterward would be "an act of imperialism."
"If after Iraq leaves Kuwait, the foreign forces continued to stay, then we have no alternative but to resist them, for then we would have the right to do so," he said.
The multinational force is based mainly in Saudi Arabia, whose leaders invited the foreign troops as protection after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
Colonel Kadafi, in a Sunday speech to the Libyan Parliament monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. and reported yesterday, said, "The Saudis have told me, 'If Iraq leaves, we will ask the Americans to leave.' "
He also said President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and President Hafez el Assad of Syria had told him they would not permit foreign forces to stay in the region once Iraq withdrew from Kuwait.
Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani was quoted yesterday as stressing that once Iraq's occupation of Kuwait ended, the foreign troops must go. Otherwise, he said, the "shocked" Iranians would "demand measures on our part to oblige them to withdraw."
He told the exiled leaders of Kuwait that Iran would resist the hand-over of any Kuwaiti territory to Iraq as part of a peace package.
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq has had particular designs on the desert island of Bubiyan, which would give him better sea access.
President Rafsanjani, in an interview with the French paper Le Monde, said, "We have warned the Kuwaitis, 'If, to reach a settlement, you accept ceding the Island of Bubiyan to the Iraqis, we will be absolutely opposed, even to a minimal change to the existing frontiers.' "
Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, questioned the continued presence of U.S. forces in the region yesterday, saying Iraq had no intention of invading neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in a U.S. television interview, Mr. Aziz also said that Westerners being held in Iraq and Kuwait would be free to leave if President Bush pledged not to attack his country.
But he said that such a pledge would not prompt Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, which it has occupied since Aug. 2.