Chief of U.N. heads for Iraq 'in good faith' Baker confident of Arab coalition if Israel joins fight

January 13, 1991|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Sun Staff Correspondent

CAIRO, Egypt -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III voiced confidence yesterday that the anti-Iraq coalition would stay intact if Israel retaliated against an attack by Iraq.

"At each of our stops we've had discussions of this issue with our Arab coalition partners and the U.S. is very satisfied with those discussions," Mr. Baker said.

Mr. Baker spoke after meeting here yesterday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguiz.

Iraq's foreign minister Tariq Aziz warned after his meeting with Mr. Baker Wednesday that Iraq "absolutely" would attack Israel if war

See BAKER, 3A, Col. 2 BAKER, from 1A

broke out.

The threat clearly was aimed at raising the prospects that Arab governments would pull out of the coalition rather than fight alongside a traditional enemy.

Israel has ruled out any pre-emptive strike against Iraq but has said it would respond if attacked in a way that Iraq would regret. Mr. Mubarak, warning Israel to stay out, recently voiced fears that the coalition could not survive Israeli involvement. Similar fears have been expressed by Senate Majority Leader George

Mitchell.

The warning from Israel's only peace partner in the Arab world put new pressure on Mr. Baker to clarify where Arab governments stood. He has so far discussed it with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. He said yesterday he was particularly satisfied with their response on the question of whether Israel became involved as a matter of "self-defense if attacked."

At the time he spoke Mr. Baker had not yet visited Syria, the most implacable enemy of Israel among the coalition partners. ,, He was to meet with Syria President Hafez el

Assad later yesterday.

Mr. Baker also endorsed a last-minute effort by the Soviet Union to prevent a gulf war with the deadline three days away. The Soviet effort was disclosed following a conversation between President Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The secretary refused to describe the Soviet plan, but indicated that it would not explicitly promise a Middle East peace conference. The United States has said to propose such a

conference now would link the gulf crisis and the Palestinian issue the way Saddam Hussein wants, thereby rewarding an aggressor.

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