Few in Baghdad react to collapse of Geneva talks

January 10, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

BAGHDAD,IRAQ — BAGHDAD, Iraq -- There was no visible reaction in this city to the collapse of U.S.-Iraqi talks in Geneva yesterday and the growing likelihood of war.

Iraqis had been told little or nothing of the talks between U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. There was no mention of the meeting in the semiofficial Baghdad Observer today. The headline on the lead story was: "Anti-war protests to sweep through U.S."

When the Geneva talks ended late in the evening Iraqi time, there was no way for the patrons of the few shish kebab restaurants open in this darkened city to know of the collapse or of its meaning to them.

At the U.S. Embassy, a diplomatic source said "somebody's working" on plans to evacuate deputy consul Joseph C. Wilson and his remaining staff of five. An announcement of that could come today.

While most sources estimate there still are hundreds of American citizens in Iraq, all had chosen to stay after the last airlift Dec. 15. Many have dual citizenship or are married to Iraqis. Some, particularly those with children, may now choose to leave.

Leaving may be more difficult now, because of the announcement yesterday by Jordan that it would close its land border with Iraq to try to stem an anticipated flow of refugees.

The kingdom's senior refugee official said the country would bar new refugees until it received more help from their governments or international agencies.

So far, according to Prime Minister Mudar Badran, Jordan has received only $12 million in aid to care for the more than 1 million refugees who had passed through the country, at a cost of some $55 million.

With the ground border closed, there remains only the single Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to Amman each day, and that has been booked full.

The inbound Baghdad flight yesterday carried Naiel Hassan, an Iraqi Embassy attache to Britain, who was expelled for statements found too close to inciting terrorism. "They expelled me for giving the other side of the story, and they did not like it," he said. "I said if war is going to be applied to Iraq, there would be attacks on targets in Western countries. Every Arab and every Moslem has an obligation to do something."

Earlier, the Iraqi News Agency, monitored in Cyprus, said that President Saddam Hussein told senior members of his Baath Socialist Party, "We are not among those who yield to pressure. You shall see what a trap the United States will fall into. Should the Americans become embroiled, we will make them swim in their own blood, God willing."

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