WASHINGTON -- Britain's new prime minister made it very clear here yesterday that he does not intend to soften the stance against Saddam Hussein that made Margaret Thatcher the staunchest U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf crisis.
"There is nothing whatsoever to negotiate about," John Major said as he began a three-day visit. Iraq must completely withdraw from Kuwait, he said, or face a military attack in which British soldiers are prepared to fight.
By refusing to accept a visit to Baghdad by Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Iraqi President Hussein, "may well be looking at one form of strategy or another to form some delay, to change the general circumstances," Mr. Major said in an interview with Cable News Network.
But, he added, the Jan. 15 deadline set by the United Nations Security Council for Mr. Hussein to leave Kuwait or face the likelihood of a military attack would be honored.
"He cannot play games. He has a clear date. He has the Security Council resolutions. Either he obeys them, or he knows what the impact of not obeying them will be," he said.
The gulf crisis was expected to be at the top of the agenda for Mr. Major's dinner meeting last night with President Bush at Camp David.
U.S. officials say they have been confident that the new British leader would continue the Thatcher policy on the Persian Gulf, but Mr. Major's visit was seen as an important element of assuring that position to the world -- especially Mr. Hussein.
As an earlier signal that Mrs. Thatcher's departure three weeks had not changed Britain's policy on the gulf, London began dispatching an additional 14,000 soldiers to the region just as Mr. Major was taking office.
The total number of British troops in the gulf is nearly 40,000.
Before spending the night at Camp David, Mr. Major met yesterday with Mr. Baker and Vice President Dan Quayle and had lunch with congressional leaders.