Powell foresees U.S. departure sooner than expected from Iraq

May 31, 1991|By New York Times News Service

SARSANG, Iraq -- Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured the Turkey-Iraq border area yesterday and said he hoped that U.S. troops could be withdrawn from the region "more rapidly than we had expected or could have anticipated a few weeks ago."

"I think we are over the hump, and we're making great progress," he told reporters.

General Powell said he was pleased that many of the nearly 2 million Kurdish refugees who fled Iraq last month had returned to their homes.

He said the United States could offer the returning Kurds no "concrete guarantees" of security, but added, "If the Kurds feel secure enough to leave our security zone and go back to their homes, then that's a significant indication."

The general warned the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein against attacking the Kurds again.

"We have to make it absolutely clear, in every way possible to the leadership in Baghdad, that the international community is watching, that the international community will be measuring Baghdad's actions in the weeks ahead," he said.

"It would not be in the interest of the government in Baghdad to return to this area in force or in an aggressive way which would threaten these people and cause them to fear for their lives again."

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