West European leaders skeptical of Iraqi proposal WAR IN THE GULF

February 16, 1991|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Paris Bureau of The Sun

PARIS -- West European leaders reacted largely with skepticism to Iraq's offer of a conditional evacuation from Kuwait yesterday and gave no sign that anything short of an immediate Iraqi troop withdrawal from Kuwait would end the war.

Fears that allied unity would erode upon the offer of a partial or conditional withdrawal gained little credence, with allied leaders insisting on strict application of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding the liberation of Kuwait.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meeting here with French President Francois Mitterrand, said that the Iraqi proposal "creates a link with a whole series of conditions before a withdrawal."

"In particular it does not fulfill the conditions of Resolution 660 for a complete and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait," Mr. Kohl said at a joint news conference.

Mr. Mitterrand dismissed the Iraqi declaration as "the diplomacy of propaganda" rather than a "true desire" to comply with U.N. resolutions.

Still, he said, it showed a change in the Iraqi position. "There is at least something new. . . . Mr. Saddam Hussein envisions this time the evacuation of Kuwait."

Mr. Mitterrand added, however, that the very conditions President Hussein set for the withdrawal violated the letter and spirit of Resolution 660, which calls for an "immediate and unconditional" Iraqi pullout.

Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez urged "great prudence" among allied leaders. "The communique could be considered as a positive step toward a solution of the conflict, obviously, if it includes respect for all the pertinent U.N. resolutions."

Thursday, after hundreds of Iraqi civilians died in the bombing of a shelter, the Spanish and Italian governments had urged Washington to spare Iraqi cities from future bombing raids. But yesterday, Mr. Gonzalez made clear that despite the criticism, Spain would not abandon its logistical support of the U.S.-led operation. Madrid estimates that 80 percent of the materiel going to the Persian Gulf passes through Spain.

Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti said, "There is a need for intentions to be immediately translated into concrete actions in line with the resolutions of the United Nations." Foreign Minister Gianni De Michelis said in Paris, "If the conditions set by Iraq are naturally unacceptable," it is still "important that Baghdad has accepted, for the first time, the idea of the legitimacy of U.N. resolutions. In any case, it is a sign of the political weakness of Iraq."

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