Britain objects to planned visit to Iraqi leader by Willy Brandt

November 02, 1990|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,London Bureau of The Sun

LONDON -- Britain objected yesterday to the German government over a planned trip by former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The Bonn government has approved the initiative by Mr. Brandt, 1972 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, despite agreement at the European summit in Rome last weekend to discourage such visits.

British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd told the German Foreign Ministry that the Brandt trip was contrary to the Rome agreement and "must be discouraged."

He relayed the same message to the Italian Foreign Ministry after learning that Emilio Colombo, a veteran Italian politician, would accompany Mr. Brandt.

A German government spokesman said that Bonn stood behind the agreement in Rome not to send representatives to negotiate with the Iraqi leader but drew a distinction with Mr. Brandt's private visit.

Mr. Brandt will try to sound out what he termed "alternatives" to war and also seek the release of "human shield" hostages.

The British learned of the initiative after Mr. Brandt sought, but failed to get, the approval of United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

The British Foreign Office also advised relatives of the hostages not to accept an invitation from Mr. Hussein to visit Baghdad at Christmas.

The official advice was that Iraqi undertakings could not be trusted and that such travel would be "risky." The Foreign Office denounced the invitations as "disgraceful and cynical."

But former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, who visited Iraq and secured the release of 33 hostages last month, said that families should be free to visit their hostage relatives.

He also told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he supported Mr. Brandt's travel plans, saying that such initiatives were needed because of lack of government diplomacy.

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