Clinton rejects Baghdad overture

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DIVISIONS between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council over Iraq deepened yesterday as Washington rejected a Russian-Iraqi proposal for an end to sanctions on Baghdad in return for Saddam Hussein's formal recognition of the sovereignty and borders of Kuwait.

The rejection, spelt out by the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, to reporters while returning from his Middle East trip, coincided with more tough language from President Bill Clinton.

Any consideration of lifting sanctions, said Mr Christopher, would be 'dangerously misguided' and show that the world at large had learnt as little from the 'colossal misadventures' of Saddam Hussein as he had himself. There could be no question of rewarding Iraq after its latest intimidation.

Mr Clinton also yielded no ground. The US troop build- up would continue, he said at the White House: 'The US will not allow Iraq to threaten its neighbours.'

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, called the Russian plan clearly inadequate. 'It appears to give Saddam Hussein a reward for his provocative actions of the last 10 days. And . . . it does nothing to meet the concern . . . of all the Gulf states . . . that (Iraq) should not be allowed to renew this threat when the American and British soldiers have gone home.'

Washington's problem will be to define what constitutes a threat. Public opinion here would certainly support military strikes to punish a semi- withdrawal. Not only Russia, but also France and other members of the 1990 Gulf coalition feel the US is already over-reacting, and would be highly critical of a pre- emptive strike.

In Baghdad, the latest twist created yet more confusion. 'I cannot stand to hear that we must recognise Kuwait. I see my arm trembling when I hear this news,' said Bassim Aslam, a 44-year-old shopkeeper in a middle-class


At the same time, however, he accepted that President Saddam 'had to make his decision for the sake of Arab unity'. He explained: 'We do not want to breach such unity if it will be beneficial to the US. We must not give opportunities to the enemies of Iraq and Kuwait to take advantage of our differences in the future. All events have their time. Our war with Kuwait had its time. But arguments between human beings are frequent, and we and the Kuwaitis are just brothers.'

Meanwhile, a London- based Iraqi opposition group reported that several high-ranking army officers were executed last week after being accused of trying to assassinate President Saddam. The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution said the officers were mainly commanders in the Republican Guard and other active army units stationed in Baghdad.

'Dozens of other officers, ranging in rank from brigadier general to major, were also executed a few days ago due to their opposition to troop movements towards the Kuwaiti border,' the group said, adding that the executions were supervised personally by the Defence Minister, General Ali Hassan al-Majeed.