'Hope it's real, but how much do you trust' Saddam? * Baltimoreans greet news from Iraq with skepticism about its intentions. PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

February 15, 1991|By Robert Hilson Jr. and Bruce Reid | Robert Hilson Jr. and Bruce Reid,Evening Sun Staff

The news came about 7 a.m. today, as Daniel Williams made his first attempt to rise from bed: Iraq supposedly had agreed to withdraw from Kuwait -- with conditions.

"I say OK, right, turn the radio down and nod back out again," Williams said. "Then they say it again and give more details and it sounds real. So I start to think about Ronnie, my cousin, who's over there."

For Williams, 26, a West Baltimore resident who works at Lafayette Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, the news today that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein may want to talk peace was greeted skeptically.

And until Williams actually sees or hears of Iraqi troops leaving Kuwait, he says, Saddam is just giving "lip service" to appease the world. Without concrete evidence of an Iraqi pullout, Williams said, U.S. troops should remain in the Persian Gulf.

"Of course, we all hope this is real and the war is over, but how much do you trust this man?" Williams said.

"I trust him as much as Jeffrey Levitt," the convicted savings and loan swindler, said a maintenance worker who had stopped to buy coffee at a convenience store in Riderwood, near Towson.

Despite the news of a possible withdrawal, many Baltimoreans questioned today said they think the war is still far from over.

Many also questioned Saddam's conditions of the withdrawal that there be an immediate cease-fire and an Israeli pullout from the occupied territories.

Christine Redding, 45, said she not only hopes the war ends soon but also wants to see to it that Saddam is never again in a position where he can dictate war.

She said she wants to see Saddam captured and tried for his war crimes.

"If it ends now -- and I pray it does -- this doesn't mean that maybe in the next four or five years he can't build his army back to what it was and try to attack again," Redding said while waiting for the Metro at the Pennsylvania Avenue stop.

"They had the fourth biggest fighting machine in the world -- and it is led by a man who could care less about human life. I'm not saying he should be killed, but he should be made unavailable to have any power ever again."

However, Warren McNeil, 29, of East Baltimore, said Saddam should be hunted and killed because even if he loses total power of Iraq he will still have great influence over his successor.

"Let's not start waving the victory flag," McNeil said. "The Arab people of the Middle East love him. He's strong and can hand-pick who he wants to take his place."

Tom Treadway, 53, a surveyor for Baltimore County who also had stopped at the Riderwood convenience store, said, "I think [Saddam] is just tired of eating bombs. I think he wants Kuwait in the worst way."

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