Bush skeptical of Hussein's promises of democracy U.S., British leaders map U.N. resolution

March 17, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Sun Staff Correspondent

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- President Bush reacted skeptically yesterday to Saddam Hussein's plans for democratic reforms, saying the Iraqi leader's credibility is "zilch, zero, zed."

"If he's proclaiming that Iraq will be a democratic nation, fine, but . . . the proof of that pudding will be in the eating," Mr. Bush said.

Meanwhile, he and British Prime Minister John Major moved forward with plans to submit a formal cease-fire resolution to the United Nations Security Council that would set tough new terms for Iraq.

Mr. Major, who hosted Mr. Bush for a working lunch here, said he was pushing for the resolution to require supervised destruction of Iraq's chemical weapons and perhaps some means of mortgaging Iraq's future oil revenues to finance reparations for Kuwait.

President Bush supports those positions, according to aides who cautioned that the final language of the proposed cease-fire resolution had not yet been determined.

At a joint news conference held under a tent that barely blocked out the March wind and rain, the two leaders also repeated warnings to Mr. Hussein against the use of combat aircraft or helicopters to put down the Iraqi rebels.

"None of us want to move forces into Baghdad. . . . Frankly, we don't want to have any more fighting," Mr. Bush said. "But they know what the ground rules are, and they ought to play by those rules."

Coalition and Iraqi military leaders are expected to meet within the next few days to discuss the aircraft issue, according to an administration official traveling with Mr. Bush.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater denied reports that Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the coalition forces, had threatened to shoot down Iraqi aircraft used in combat against the rebels.

"We'll leave that [threat] unstated," Mr. Fitzwater said. "Let 'em guess."

Bermuda was the third stop on a three-nation tour for Mr. Bush, who is gathering ideas from allies on how a lasting peace between the Arabs and the Israelis might be achieved.

"There isn't one formula yet, and I don't think there will be a single formula until a lot more consultation has taken place," he said.

In sharp contrast to his meeting Thursday with French President Francois Mitterrand, Mr. Bush said that he and the British prime minister were in complete agreement on everything they discussed.

Neither leader had heard Mr. Hussein's speech directly by the time of their news conference, but they were not enthusiastic about accounts of it.

"What people are looking for, I think, is compliance with the United Nations resolutions and the temporary cease-fire terms," Mr. Bush said.

The unmet conditions are expected to be made requirements of a permanent cease-fire, along with some new provisions.

The potential terms outlined by Mr. Bush and Mr. Major yesterday included:

* The permanent recognition of Kuwait as an independent an sovereign nation.

* The release of Kuwaitis still held by Iraq.

* Arrangements for a peacekeeping force, possibility under U.N auspices with a lead role for Arab states.

* Some form of arms control for the region, including an embarg on Iraq.

President Bush was scheduled to return to Washington today after a brief stop in Sumter, S.C., for a homecoming celebration for troops returning from the Persian Gulf.

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