Gorbachev calls Bush to propose gulf peace ideas

January 12, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev told President Bush yesterday that he was pursuing some new ideas for a diplomatic solution to the Persian Gulf crisis, but the White House was not optimistic about their chances for success.

Mr. Gorbachev outlined his proposals to Mr. Bush in a 25-minute telephone call yesterday morning. Soviet Ambassador Alexander Bessmertnykh met twice with the president later in the day to follow up on the discussions.

Mr. Bush told reporters the Soviet leader was "thinking innovatively" but would not describe the ideas in detail. He noted only that they did not call for any deviation from the United Nations mandate that Iraq withdraw completely and unconditionally from Kuwait by Tuesday.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Mr. Gorbachev planned to pursue his ideas through his own channels and did not request U.S. involvement.

Other administration officials characterized the Soviet leader's proposals as mostly a "repackaging of previous Soviet positions" and downplayed expectations that they might lead to a diplomatic breakthrough.

"We don't want to unnecessarily get our hopes up," Mr. Fitzwater said. "I don't think it changes the overall situation."

The White House is more hopeful about prospects for a mission to Baghdad today by United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, said a senior administration official. But he added that none of the last-minute bids at diplomacy would succeed unless Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was receptive to them.

Mr. Gorbachev has been a key ally on the Persian Gulf crisis, one whose support for the U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force to drive Iraq from Kuwait was critical.

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