Iraq Offers Deal to Quit Kuwait, US Rejects It, But Stays ‘Interested’

by | Jan 3, 1990 | Fair Use Articles

By Knut Royce, Newsday, January 3, 1991

Iraq has offered to withdraw from Kuwait if the United States pledges not to attack as soldiers are pulled out, if foreign troops leave the region, and if there is agreement on the Palestinian problem and on the banning of all weapons of mass destruction in the region, U.S. officials disclosed yesterday.

Although the White House immediately dismissed the proposal as inadequate since it contains preconditions for a pullout, other government officials described it as “interesting” because it drops previous claims to two Kuwaiti islands and a portion of an oil field, and because it signals Iraqi interest in a negotiated settlement.

As the Jan. 15 United Nations deadline approaches for an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, Iraq has been increasingly adamant in public that it will never pull out.

According to a U.S. official, Iraq’s proposal was made by Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz to his Yugoslav counterpart, Budimir Loncar, who was visiting Baghdad last week in an 11th-hour bid by the Non-Aligned Movement to avert a Gulf war. Both countries are members of the non-aligned bloc.

Loncar, according to a U.S. official, “came back with a feeling that there was grounds for a negotiated settlement.”

A State Department Mideast expert described the proposal as a “serious prenegotiation position.

“He and others said that while there can be no perceived linkage of a pullout from Kuwait with an international agreement on the Palestine issue, European Community officials are working toward such an agreement. The European foreign ministers are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the settlement of Mideast issues, including the future of the Palestinians, once the Gulf crisis is settled.

“It’s a serious move,” said the State Department official of the European initiative. “But it’s not linkage. We can’t even think linkage. Any agreement wouldn’t even be coincidental {to an Iraqi withdrawal}.

Call it sequential.

“United States officials have stated repeatedly that there is no connection between Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and Israel’s occupation of territories inhabited by Palestinians. And Israel has repeatedly rejected the suggestion that outside powers have the right to settle the Palestinian problem.

President Saddam Hussein has said that he would withdraw from Kuwait if Israel pulled out of “Arab-occupied territories in Palestine” and Syria left Lebanon. But in calling for a “resolution” of the Palestine problem now, Iraq did not insist on a partial, total or gradual Israeli pullout.

Iraq’s insistence that foreign troops leave the region was ambiguous, according to a government source familiar with the proposal. He said he was unsure if it meant that UN troops could do no peace-keeping duty in Kuwait once Iraq leaves, or that U.S. troops would have to pull out of Saudi Arabia, or perhaps even Egyptian troops.

This source also said that Iraq’s call for the removal of weapons of mass destruction from the region was problematic, since Israel has given no indication it would consider destroying its nuclear arsenal even if Iraq were to abandon its chemical, biological and nuclear warfare programs.

Secretary of State James Baker has said publicly that the United States would not attack Iraq if it pulls entirely out of Kuwait.

A White House official said that the United States would likely guarantee not to attack if Iraq unconditionally pulls out of Kuwait.

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