Baker starts 7-nation tour to assess sentiment for military action in gulf

November 04, 1990|By Knight-Ridder News Service

SHANNON, Ireland -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III embarked yesterday on a tour of the Middle East, the Soviet Union and Western Europe to sound out sentiment for military action and other steps to force Iraq out of Kuwait.

Mr. Baker, who plans to visit seven countries over eight days, said he would talk to foreign leaders about new political, economic and military measures that the anti-Iraq coalition of nations could take to intensify pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops from Kuwait.

Speaking to reporters aboard his airplane en route to his first stop, the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, Mr. Baker refused to discuss specific military options under consideration or reveal a deadline for when the United States might want to move in that direction.

But he made clear that the major goal of the trip was to determine how committed other nations were to waging a war if political and economic pressures failed to end Iraq's occupation of its tiny southern neighbor.

"We'd like to know under what conditions and subject to what restraints they would be willing to consider certain types of [military] actions," Mr. Baker said.

Laying the groundwork for a new plan of action, including possible military force, "will improve the prospects for a peaceful resolution and at the same time permit us to be prepared to consider all options if peaceful ones don't work," Mr. Baker said.

C7 He added that he also would assess how long wealthy

Arab nations were willing to continue financing the U.S. and other national military forces stationed in the region.

"We need to know the extent and degree to which countries are willing to support this joint and mutual effort as it moves forward and the time frame becomes one of -- let's say -- months, rather than weeks," Mr. Baker said.

His latest trip comes a week after President Bush began stepping up rhetorical attacks on Mr. Hussein by condemning his treatment of foreign hostages and raising the possibility of military force to free Kuwait.

Administration officials said Mr. Bush's bellicose rhetoric, which has been toned down, was intended, in part, to refocus attention on Kuwait after weeks of news about the political fighting over the federal budget. The attacks also were a signal to Mr. Hussein that the United States was preparing to use force, if necessary, they said.

Other nations are less supportive of a military option, particularly the Soviet Union, which Mr. Baker will visit Wednesday and Thursday for talks with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in Moscow.

Other stops include Saudi Arabia, where Mr. Baker also will meet with the exiled ruler of Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Britain and France. Before starting his meetings in Bahrain, Mr. Baker planned to visit U.S. troops in the Saudi desert this morning.

While in Cairo, Egypt, Baker will meet with the foreign minister from China. That will allow him to have consulted with top officials from the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China.

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