WASHINGTON -- President Bush plans a Thanksgiving visit to U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf during a Mideast swing that also will include meetings with two key allies in the gulf crisis, Saudi King Fahd and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the White House announced yesterday.
The long-expected trip to show concern for the more than 200,000 Americans preparing for a possible war with Iraq was announced as Mr.Bush, campaigning for GOP congressional candidates, maintained his unyielding stance toward Iraqi President Saddam Hussein while pledging to work for a peaceful outcome.
"I will do my level best to bring every single one of them home without a shot fired in anger, but we will not stop short of our stated objectives," the president told a Cincinnati audience. "We are the United States of America, and we stand for principle. That principle must prevail.
"Saddam Hussein must get out, and he must get out totally."
Mr. Bush will go to Saudi Arabia as part of an eight-day trip starting Nov. 16 that also will include a visit to Prague and a meeting with Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel; talks in Germany with Chancellor Helmut Kohl; attendance at the 34-nation summit meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe on Nov. 19 and 20; and a meeting in Egypt with Mr. Mubarak. While in Saudi Arabia, the president also will meet with the emir of Kuwait.
The trip was announced on the eve of Secretary of State James A. Baker III's departure for the Middle East to discuss the crisis with most of the key partners in the coalition arrayed against Iraq.
In wide-ranging talks that are to include discussion of military options, Mr. Baker will sound out the
leaders on how much time to give the combination of economic sanctions and threat of force to push Iraq out of Kuwait.
Mr. Baker kept Israel off his itinerary in part to avoid any impression that the gulf crisis and Israel were linked, as Mr. Hussein wants.
But the United States made warm gestures yesterday to ease strains with Israel. Mr. Baker met for 55 minutes with its new ambassador to Washington, Zalman Shoval, and moved forward providing $400 million in housing loan guarantees to help settle a huge influx of Soviet Jews. Also, Mr. Bush sent a cordial 75th birthday note to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Meanwhile, the United States went through the diplomatic motions of trying to get Iraq to allow resupply of dwindling food stocks at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.
John Bolton, assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, met in New York with United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who has been instructed by the Security Council to press Iraq on resupplying embassies in Kuwait.
U.N. and U.S. officials -- noting that Iraq has refused to admit the secretary-general's special envoy, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who is seeking to obtain release of hostages -- expressed doubt that Mr. Perez de Cuellar would have any success on the embassy question.
Withdrawal of embassy personnel in Kuwait would virtually cut zTC off official contact with hundreds of Americans in hiding in the country. President Bush has declined to say what further moves he would make to keep the mission open.
Iraq told the United States yesterday that it would allow four Americans -- two of them on the U.S. list of people with medical concerns -- to leave. One of the ill Americans is among those being held as "human shields" at strategic installations.
The State Department strongly discouraged Americans from traveling to Iraq to see relatives during the holidays, as they have been invited to do by Baghdad. "The United States government . . . discourages visits that the Iraqis can exploit for propaganda purposes," spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.