NICOSIA, CYPRUS — AN Iraqi minister appeared to lift the threat of starvation on Saturday from more than 1 million trapped foreigners, saying they were entitled to the same amount of food as Iraqis. In an about-turn, Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait would not be denied access to rationed, fixed-price food from today, as was being reported in the West. Other food supplies are almost impossible to obtain.
His statement contradicted a statement last Thursday by an Information Ministry spokesman, who said foreigners would not have access to the food because of ``the imperialistic blockade'' on Baghdad.
It also flew in the face of longstanding warnings, first made by Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz on Sept. 3. Mr. Aziz told the International Committee of the Red Cross that states with nationals in Iraq and occupied Kuwait should provide Baghdad with food to feed their nationals.
China sells chemicals to Iraq
China has sold Iraq large quantities of a chemical used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and missile fuel, the London-based Independent newspaper said yesterday. The report, based on unnamed sources, said a Chinese state company agreed 10 days ago to supply about 7 tons of lithium hydride at a cost of $1.5 million.
The chemical has few civil applications, the report said, but can be used to manufacture hydrogen and atom bombs.
Western diplomats in Beijing said they had no evidence China had violated the embargo.
Sri Lankans join Iraq
One thousand Sri Lankans have volunteered to join Iraq if war breaks out in the Gulf, the state-run Sunday Observer newspaper said.
The newspaper quoted Tariq Ahmed Maroof, the Iraqi Ambassador in Colombo, as saying: ``Iraq plans to recruit Sri Lankans for their war against US imperialists and already 1,000 applications of Sri Lankan Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims have been finalized.''
Meanwhile, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said in New York Saturday that the Soviet Union would be prepared to send troops to the Gulf under the auspices of the United Nations.
Israel may ignore US pleas
Israel would ignore US pleas for restraint in the Gulf crisis if it felt an imminent Iraqi threat, the head of the Israeli Army said Saturday.
``Despite our wish to do everything in coordination with the United States, when there is a situation in which we feel danger to Israeli citizens, we will respond according to our interests,'' Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron told Israel Television.
Israel has maintained a generally low profile in the Gulf crisis, partly at the urging of the US, diplomats say.
Separately, Israel and the Soviet Union will resume direct air links this month after a 23-year break, the Israeli Transport Ministry said Saturday. But it was unclear if that would boost Soviet Jewish immigration.
About 100,000 Soviet Jews have already moved to Israel this year, and officials predict up to a million by the end of 1992.