14 Americans freed by Iraqis arrive in Jordan

October 24, 1990|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Iraq released 14 American men yesterday, including six who have medical problems, and agreed to free all 330 French citizens and 33 Britons trapped after Iraq overran Kuwait.

Refusing to cede a propaganda advantage to Iraq, President Bush condemned anew its hostage-holding and pillaging of Kuwait and drew a parallel between the Aug. 2 invasion and Hitler's seizure of Poland.

"I am more determined than ever to see that this invading dictator gets out of Kuwait with no compromise of any kind whatsoever," Mr. Bush said during a campaign trip to New England leading up to the congressional elections.

In a similar vein yesterday, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the expected release of its citizens "is merely to undo this unacceptable act" of seizing them in the first place and that "France cannot lend itself to any negotiation on this subject."

Besides the six with medical problems, the freed Americans who arrived last night in Amman, Jordan, on a regularly scheduled Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad include six students -- three of whom had been summer interns at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait and three who are dependents of embassy employees -- and two others with critically ill family members in the United States.

"The list of people who departed this time emerged from extensive discussions by our embassy [in Baghdad] with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry," State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.

"The Iraqi government refused to permit any detainees or any Americans in Kuwait to depart," Miss Tutwiler said. Iraq has detained 106 Americans, who are believed to be among the "human shields" placed at strategic sites, and has barred hundreds of others from leaving Iraq and Kuwait.

Miss Tutwiler welcomed the release but noted, "There are still many Americans and foreign nationals who are not free to leave Iraq and Kuwait." She said the move "does nothing but focus [attention] on how many hostages he is holding."

[None of the Americans who left Iraq yesterday had been part of its "human shield" against attack, the Associated Press reported.

["I'm just thrilled that I'm going," William Hollingsworth, 64, told the AP in Baghdad before boarding the Iraqi Airways flight.

["It's a strange coincidence, but I'm leaving the gulf, and my son is in Saudi Arabia," said Mr. Hollingsworth, of Huntsville, Ala. He explained that his son is with the multinational force assembled after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

[One of the evacuees identified himself as Gerald Scognn. He said he is the son of an American diplomat holed up at the embassy in Kuwait.

["I don't know if I will see him again," Mr. Scognn, 21, of Fairfax, Va., said of his father.

[Craig Turlay, 21, of Phoenix, Ariz., said the situation in Iraq was "pretty monotonous. We just stayed at the embassy headquarters and carried on as best as we could."]

Mr. Bush, campaigning in Vermont yesterday morning, made an emotional appeal for continued public support of his Persian Gulf policy, insisting that the issue was aggression, not oil. "I would simply say that the rape and the dismantling, the systematic dismantling of Kuwait defies description," he said.

Hostage-holding "goes against the conscience of the entire world," he said. "Good God, this is 1990, and you see this man starving out small embassies in Kuwait. These are crimes against humanity. There can never be any compromise . . . with this kind of aggression."

His speech appeared partly aimed at dispelling signs of weakening resolve in the international anti-Iraq coalition, arising from remarks made to Arab journalists early this week by the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan ibn Abdul Aziz.

The prince was widely interpreted as suggesting that Saudi Arabia would agree to territorial concessions by Kuwait and as betraying weariness or division over the gulf crisis within the Saudi ruling family.

The Saudi government went to considerable lengths yesterday to remove that impression.

Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, the ambassador to Washington and the defense minister's son, told reporters at the State Department, where he had met with Secretary of State James A. Baker III: "Saudi Arabia has not suggested that there should be concessions made by Kuwait to anybody. That is not our right, nor is it what was said. What we have said is that we insist on implementation of the United Nations resolutions and Arab League resolutions unconditionally."

He also said he had heard nothing to suggest that Iraq was willing to withdraw from Kuwait.

Prince Bandar, who had spoken both with his father and with King Fahd, insisted that "aggression should not be rewarded. But what happens, after implementation of all United Nations resolutions, et cetera, is up to the state of Kuwait and Iraqi people."

A Washington source with close Saudi contacts found "plausible" the idea that Prince Sultan may have been floating a "trial balloon" and was also trying to demonstrate to the Arab world that his country had gone "the last mile" in seeking a diplomatic solution.

King Fahd himself made a conciliatory gesture to Iraq yesterday, saying that Saddam Hussein would not be disgraced by a withdrawal from Kuwait. Withdrawal would not be "terrible or painful," the king told reporters during a visit by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"On the contrary, if President Saddam thinks seriously, he will find it in the interest of Iraq, Saddam himself and the Arab nation if he is to withdraw from Kuwait. . . . I believe that we would say an Arab had followed a certain course and now has realized that there was a better course to follow. I do not think this would bring any disgrace on Saddam."

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