Iraqi refugees tell of U.S. POWs Jordanian arrivals say 2 spoke on TV WAR IN THE GULF

January 20, 1991|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Sun Staff Correspondent

RUWEISHED, Jordan -- Baghdad television paraded two captured U.S. pilots before the Iraqi public as early spoils of the gulf war, according to two Jordanians who crossed the border back into their homeland yesterday.

There has been no independent confirmation of their account.

The Jordanians, who arrived in the same caravan of cars at this desert checkpoint along the Iraqi border, said the pilots appeared together on television screens Friday night.

Neither recalled the pilots' names.

Salah Mohammed Saleh said the pilots made brief statements. "They said that they treat them well, that they give them their dinner," he said. "They look pretty good."

Mr. Saleh, 44, drove from Baghdad with his wife and three children. A large suitcase was lashed to the top of their compact car. "We're only going to Amman for a holiday," he said. "In 10, 15 days we'll go back. We are not afraid. . . . There is no damage, not anything."

Hoda Yusef, who works for the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad, said that she saw the pilots on television but that she missed their statement because the power blacked out in her home.

Members of a Canadian television crew that crossed into Jordan yesterday described life in Baghdad grimly -- a city where water, telephone service and electricity have been virtually knocked out.

Despite that, said one member of the crew, the city has very little damage to homes and streets, despite the spectacular light show produced by the nightly bombing runs.

"At night it's incredible," he said. "The Iraqis are just blindly shooting at everything. But then you get up in the morning and everything looks just fine."

He attributed the lack of damage to the apparent precision of the attacks directed at strategic targets.

Jordan reopened its eastern border with Iraq Friday after the United Nations agreed to pay the cost of resettling any refugees. But the exodus so far has been much slower than in August, when more than 360,000 people streamed into Jordan following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.

U.N. officials visited the border crossing and nearby refugee tent camp Friday along with Jordanian Crown Prince Hassan.

Officials predict as many as 750,000 people may flow into the country once the word gets out in Iraq that the border is open.

Friday's crossings included mostly Egyptians, Sudanese, Jordanians and Yemenis. Most of the people at the border checkpoint early yesterday afternoon were Jordanians.

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