Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq Prefers to Go to War Rather Than Capitulate, Baghdad Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq Prefers to Go to War Rather Than Capitulate, Baghdad Says

Article excerpt

ON the eve of the United Nations Security Council deadline for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, Baghdad is demonstrating unwavering - and potentially suicidal - defiance despite a last minute spate of diplomacy by UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and other European leaders.

At a meeting with Iraqi journalists late Sunday night, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said that the government's policy on Kuwait was nonnegotiable, denying previous speculation and reports that Iraq will be ready to withdraw from Kuwait in return for progress towards solving the Palestinian problem.

"We want all of our rights.... We are not ready to swap one of our rights for another," he said in a reference to Iraqi claims that Kuwait was part of Iraq.

Iraq's parliament voted yesterday to fight to hold onto Kuwait in a move tantamount to a declaration of war as a grim UN Secretary-General emerged empty-handed from talks with Saddam Hussein.

Iraq "has resolved to fight," Speaker Saadi Mahdi Saleh told parliament with less than 48 hours remaining until a UN resolution authorizing force against Iraq was to take effect.

Senior Arab diplomats said that Saddam's hard-line rhetoric meant that so far he has not received an offer by the United Nations or Europe that Iraq could consider.

"So far the Iraqis feel that the gist of all offers have been for Baghdad to capitulate rather than to negotiate," said a senior Arab diplomat who has been in touch with the Iraqi leadership in the last 24 hours.

"We prefer war to capitulation," is the line repeated by several senior Iraqi officials here.

In the Iraqi view, Washington is still trying through military threats and political pressures - direct and indirect - to force Iraq to accept what is viewed here "as a master-slave relationship".

"The US President considers himself the master of the world giving orders to the Iraqis," said Naji Hadithi, a senior Iraqi information official.

Over the last four days, Iraqi officials have been seeking to transform the Gulf crisis into a decisive confrontation to end what they see as "American hegemony over the Arab world."

Iraqi and some Arab officials insist that Saddam's argument has been picking up support among third world leaders.

Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda has just ended a visit to Baghdad seeking a solution to the crisis. And former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra is here pressing an initiative by the nonaligned movement to implement all the United Nations' resolutions concerning the problems of the region.

Palestine Liberation Organization officials claim that they have received pledges by many African leaders to side with Iraq in case of war.

"PLO chairman (Yasser) Arafat has returned from a tour of Africa where many leaders told him that the current confrontation was their battle to end American hegemony," a PLO official said. …

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