LONDON -- British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said yesterday that a European Community peace initiative should be used to "reinforce" the United Nations demand for Iraq's complete withdrawal from Kuwait.
Iraq's ambassador to London, Azmi Al-Salihi, cautiously welcomed the EC move: "We are always ready to receive those who want to talk to us. Our hope is that these talks may prevent war."
Asked if he viewed the EC move as "a split" with U.S. policy, he said: "If you wish to call it a split, it is our hope that this [will] achieve peace."
He repeated President Saddam Hussein's demand of Aug. 12 that all regional issues, including the Palestinian question, be "discussed together."
Foreign ministers of the 12 European Community members are to meet in Luxembourg Friday to decide whether to open talks with Iraq.
The meeting is expected to approve contact between Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, probably in Baghdad. Luxembourg is assuming the EC presidency.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain are leading the attempt to break the diplomatic impasse before the Jan. 15 deadline for Iraqi withdrawal to prevent U.N.-authorized military action by the multinational coalition.
Aware of the Bush administration's misgivings that independent European action might send confusing signals to Mr. Hussein, Mr. Poos stressed: "There is a condition, or pre-condition to talks, which is compliance with the U.N. resolutions. No partial solution is possible, also no new deal. . . . No other date [than the Jan. 15 deadline] can be fixed or will be fixed."
The British foreign secretary, who has strongly backed the U.S. approach throughout the crisis, insisted that there could be no direct linkage.
Mr. Hurd said: "I think there's a chance, not a good chance, there's a chance for peace as long as the issues are clear . . . that Saddam Hussein knows that if he stays in Kuwait he will be attacked . . . that if he withdraws completely and unconditionally, then he will not be attacked."