BAGHDAD, Iraq -- With the United Nations' clock ticking toward war, the secretary-general of the world body arrived here last night to seek peace.
Javier Perez de Cuellar landed in Baghdad about 5 p.m. (9 a.m. EST) in hopes of negotiating a settlement to the Persian Gulf crisis with President Saddam Hussein before Tuesday's U.N. deadline allowing the use of military force against Iraq.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar told reporters at the airport that he did not know when he could see Mr. Hussein. He conferred in private with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz for 15 minutes and was then driven away to an undisclosed location. He apparently did not meet the Iraqi president last night.
Mr. Hussein, meanwhile, called an emergency meeting of the Iraqi National Assembly tomorrow. No explanation for the summons was given, although such meetings in the past have been called to ratify important policy decisions.
The U.N. chief arrived here "with no specific proposals," he acknowledged. "All I bring is my good will and my wishes for finding a peaceful solution.
"I come as a messenger of peace. I am persuaded I am bringing the wishes of the international community to find a peaceful solution."
In fact, Mr. Perez de Cuellar arrives following whirlwind consultations with members of the European Community and leaders of other Middle Eastern states. "I have messages of encouragement from the pope, the Soviet Union, France," he said. "It is an endless list."
President Bush "welcomed my coming here," Mr. Perez de Cuellar said. But Secretary of State James A. Baker III delivered yesterday a message unwelcome to the U.N. official's task. Speaking from Cairo, Egypt, on his own Mideast tour, Mr. Baker strongly repeated the Bush administration's rejection of a solution to the Kuwait occupation that would involve international talks over the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Mr. Hussein has made the Palestinian cause his main argument in defense of his occupation of Kuwait. He has sought to portray the impending conflict as one to liberate Palestine and has hinted that he would withdraw if the United Nations would hold talks on the issue.