Bush issues warnings to Iraq and Iran WAR IN THE GULF

March 14, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Sun Staff Correspondent

OTTAWA -- President Bush warned Iraq yesterday not to use helicopters as gunships against its rebels and advised Iran not to take advantage of the rebellion to seize Iraqi territory.

Mr. Bush said at a news conference that the United States considers the Iraqi tactic of firing upon the rebels from helicopters to be a violation of the agreement reached with Iraqi military leaders to halt combat in the Persian Gulf war.

"Helicopters are not to be used for combat purposes inside Iraq," Mr. Bush said, noting that their continued use threatened a permanent cease-fire agreement. "[We're] warning them: Do not this."

The White House later issued a statement saying it had learned over the past week that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was using helicopters to put down civil disturbances aimed at toppling his regime.

Mr. Bush's warning did not go so far as to threaten renewed military action against Iraq, as U.S. officials had in warning Mr. Hussein against using chemical weapons against rebels.

The president also acknowledged that he was concerned about the instability in Iraq in the wake of the war, and particularly worried that neighboring Iran might draw on its support among the rebels to annex Iraqi lands.

"That would be the worst thing they could do," Mr. Bush said in response to a question from a reporter.

The president made a point of noting later, though, that he had seen no evidence that Iran had any designs on its neighbor's turf.

Mr. Bush met with reporters in a joint session with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney after an hourlong meeting in which the two focused largely on future security arrangements in the Middle East and efforts toward an Arab-Israeli peace.

Like the United States, Canada recently sent an emissary to the region to sound out leaders there on new prospects for compromise between Arabs and Jews in the region. Both have reported optimistic results.

"I think it's fair to say there's been some kind of a change," Mr. Bush said, referring to telephone reports he has received from Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

"I can't tell you about radically shifting positions, but . . . I think the mood is that we have a chance now," the president said.

Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Mulroney expressed the hope that if the Palestine Liberation Organization continued to be the official representative of the Palestinian Arabs, it would replace Yasser Arafat as its leader.

By "overzealously" supporting Mr. Hussein's invasion and takeover of Kuwait, Mr. Arafat "diminished his credibility in the Arab world," Mr. Bush said.

He suggested that the PLO would benefit from a leader who was "more reasonable or more sensible."

Mr. Baker was told Tuesday by a group of Palestinians with whom he met in Jerusalem that they still considered the PLO to be the sole representative of their interests.

U.S. officials reporting on that meeting said that the Palestinians were also shocked to learn of the low esteem in which Mr. Arafat is now held among the leaders of Syria, Egypt and the Persian Gulf states who joined against Iraq.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Mulroney appeared to hit an area of sharp disagreement over U.S. plans to continue arms sales to Israel and other allies in the Middle East.

"No one can fail to be struck by the irony of the fact that most of the hardware deployed in the Middle East was sold to the various factions by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council," Mr. Mulroney observed.

He said Canada mostly avoided the arms trade because "it's fundamentally inconsistent with our policy to develop it, to peddle it, to finance it and then to deplore its use."

Mr. Bush said he, too, was interested in curbing arms proliferation in the region, but "that doesn't mean we're going to refuse to sell anything to everybody. . . . We don't want to see imbalances develop."

The president was also cool to a Canadian proposal for a "world summit" on arms control, saying it was "a little early" to commit himself.

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