Bush Ultimatum Demands Iraqi Withdrawal By Noon
Threatens All-Out War if Saddam Hussein Does Not Comply
President Bush and the allies yesterday gave Iraq 24 hours to begin a pullout from Kuwait or face a final all-out attack. The Iraqis denounced the "shameful" U.S. ultimatum and aligned themselves instead with a Soviet peace plan.
But Iraq did not clearly reject the possibility of a quick withdrawal.
The Gulf War stood at a cross-roads between a U.S. demand for an immediate, unconditional Iraqi pull-out within eight days, and a Soviet-Iraqi proposal for a three-week pullout, a plan that might relieve Iraq of responsibility for war reparations.
The Iraqis appealed for United Nations intervention to determine war damages in both Kuwait and Iraq.
The U.S.-led coalition's preparations for a major assault on Kuwait went on, in fiery showers of napalm and fuel-air bombs dropped on the Iraqi defense lines in Kuwait.
The Iraqis wielded the fire weapon, too, setting more than 140 oil wells ablaze in Kuwait, U.S. military officials said. Blankets of black smoke spread through the desert skies.
One Marine was killed and five others were wounded yesterday in an artillery duel across the border, the U.S. command reported. Twenty Americans have been killed in action in Operation Desert Storm, 30 are listed as missing and nine as prisoners.
About midnight Thursday, Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, flew in to Moscow for an urgent session with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on a Soviet proposal to end Iraq's 64-month-old occupation of Kuwait. The Soviets emerged from the talks to announce they and the Iraqis agreed on a withdrawal plan.
The Soviet-Iraqi terms included the rescinding of U.N. Security Council resolutions that hold Iraq liable for war damages and Iraqi disavowal of its "annexation" of Kuwait, among other Iraqi concessions.
The plan also stipulated that the anti-Iraq economic embargo be lifted when two-thirds of Iraq's forces were pulled out of Kuwait.
After hurried White House consultations late Thursday, the Bush administration said the Moscow plan was unacceptable, and insisted any Iraqi withdrawal come with no strings attached.
The Soviet plan also was vague on a withdrawal timetable, and U.S. officials had made clear they wanted a limited time frame.
Late yesterday morning, Bush stepped before reporters in the White House Rose Garden to announce a deadline of noon today EST for the beginning of an "immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait."
White House spokesperson Marlin Fitzwater later said the withdrawal must be completed within seven days, and Iraq muct comply with all U.N. provisions.
"The world must make sure that Iraq has, in fact, renounced its claim to Kuwait and accepted all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said.
Among other stipulations for withdrawal listed by the Bush spokesperson: Iraq forces must be removed from Kuwait City and prisoners of war released within the pullout's first two days; Iraq must remove booby traps and mines from Kuwait; it must cease destructive actions against Kuwaiti citizens and property, and release Kuwaiti prisoners.
At noon yesterday, U.S. officials in Washington summoned an Iraqi diplomat and turned over the peace terms, saying Saddam must agree to them before a cease-fire could be called.