RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- After a meeting between allied and Iraqi generals, Iraq accepted yesterday a United Nations resolution setting terms for a formal cease-fire, clearing the way for an early release of prisoners of war and the withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraqi territory.
Baghdad radio said that Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister, announced the acceptance in a letter to the United Nations in which Iraq pledged to fulfill the terms "sincerely and as soon as possible." In a resolution adopted Saturday, the U.N. Security Council demanded that Iraq renounce all claims to Kuwait and agree in principle to pay reparations for war damages.
The letter amounted to a declaration of surrender, three days after the end of a lightning ground offensive that pushed Iraq out of Kuwait and only hours after the first face-to-face discussions between Iraqi and allied generals. President Saddam Hussein went unmentioned in the two-paragraph text.
The letter cited by Baghdad radio stated: "We hope that the U.N. Security Council will deal with our meeting of these obligations, which we will do sincerely and as soon as possible, objectively and honorably and in keeping with the provisions of international law and the rules of justice and fair play."
[Later last night, the Security Council committed itself to expediting humanitarian aid to Iraq, but the United States and its allies defeated an attempt to relax a stringent U.N. trade embargo on Baghdad for basic civilian needs, according to Reuters.]
Iraq's acceptance of the U.N. cease-fire resolution followed a two-hour meeting between an Iraqi military delegation and a delegation of allied officers led by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of coalition forces. General Schwarzkopf announced that the delegations had made progress toward "a lasting peace" and reported that Iraq had "agreed on all matters" for the formal cease-fire.
"We have just completed very frank, very candid and very constructive discussions with the Iraqi military," he said when he emerged from the tent where the talks took place. "I am very happy to tell you that we agreed on all matters."
Iraq agreed to exchange prisoners of war under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross, beginning with a "symbolic release" that General Schwarzkopf said would occur "immediately."
The general said the coalition agreed to withdraw its forces from Iraqi territory after the signing of a formal cease-fire agreement.
The meeting between allied and Iraqi officers was held at an airstrip at Safwan, five miles north of the Iraq-Kuwait border and part of the broad swath of Iraqi territory captured by the coalition south of the Euphrates River.
Iraq's eight-member delegation was led by Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, chief of military operations, and Lt. Gen. Salah Abbud Mahmoud, commander of the 3rd Army Corps. They arrived at the airstrip by car for an event that had the trappings of a surrender ceremony.
They found Safwan surrounded by U.S. M-1A1 tanks and shadowed by Apache AH-64 helicopters over
head. Several hundred U.S. soldiers surrounded the tent where the two delegations sat on folding chairs on opposite sides of a table.
General Schwarzkopf, wearing standard-issue Army camouflage, sat unsmiling next to Saudi Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, commander of allied Arab forces, when television cameras were allowed into the tent before the session began.
Generals Ahmad and Mahmoud, also unsmiling but turning briefly to face the cameras, wore green uniforms with ribbed sweaters. Behind the allied commanders were senior officers from coalition nations, while the rest of Iraq's delegation sat behind the Iraqi generals.
The session began about 11:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. EST). Two hours later, General Schwarzkopf emerged to announce that all had gone well and that the next step was for Iraq officially to accept the Security Council resolution outlining truce terms.
"I would just say that I think that we have made a major step forward in the cause of peace," he said. "And I have every expectation that if we continue the open and frank and cooperative dialogue that we had today -- and I would say very candidly that the Iraqis came to discuss and to cooperate with a positive attitude -- that we are well on our way to a lasting peace."
General Schwarzkopf took care to avoid embarrassing the Iraqi officers, who did not issue a statement. When they arrived, he ordered them to be searched only with a metal detector, out of the sight of cameras. "I don't want them embarrassed in any way," he was overheard to say while walking to the tent. "I don't want them humiliated."
Iraq was said to have agreed to all matters requiring quick actions, including the following:
* Immediately releasing all prisoners of war. The coalition also demanded the names of any allied troops who died in Iraqi captivity and their remains.