SOVIET peace envoy Yevgeny Primakov and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein held their second round of talks in a month yesterday as Moscow signaled a possible softening in Iraq's stand on the Gulf crisis. The Soviet Union Saturday delayed a United Nations Security Council vote against Iraq, leading to speculation that Mr. Primakov was making progress in his efforts to negotiate a solution to the crisis.
Iraq's UN Ambassador Abdul Amir al-Anbari fueled the speculation by telling reporters: ``We hope by Monday we might have some more encouraging news coming from Baghdad.''
But Soviet Ambassador Yuri Vorontsov was cautious. He told reporters that he expected Primakov to ``have very fruitful and important discussions'' with the Iraqi president during the weekend.
Primakov is trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the crisis sparked by Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. He has already visited Syria and Egypt and was scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia today.
The UN resolution, which is scheduled to be voted on today, would make Iraq responsible for war damages and ask states to document their financial losses and any mistreatment of civilians.
Israel lifts ban on Palestinians
Israel yesterday lifted its entry ban on Palestinian workers from the Israeli-occupied territories. The rare ban was imposed last Wednesday after a surge in Arab-Israeli violence.
Most of the 1.75 million Arabs of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip could enter Israel, a Defense Ministry statement said, but tougher controls would filter out those permanently barred as security or crime risks.
The blanket closure was imposed after a string of tit-for-tat attacks following the Oct. 8 police killing of at least 20 Palestinians at Jerusalem's Temple Mount.
An Israeli commission investigating the killings published its report Friday. It was dismissed by Palestinians as a whitewash.
Although criticizing lack of preparedness by police chiefs, the report said that lethal force was justified and blamed the incident on Arab militants who stoned police and Jewish worshipers at the nearby Western Wall.
EC vows no separate hostage talks
Leaders of the 12-nation European Community pledged yesterday that they would not negotiate separately with Iraq to obtain the release of hostages held in the Gulf crisis.
At their first summit meeting since Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, EC leaders condemned Saddam for his ``unscrupulous use'' of foreign hostages to divide the international community.
A declaration adopted unanimously at the two-day summit in Rome said EC members ``reaffirm their total solidarity in achieving the freedom of all foreign citizens trapped in Iraq and Kuwait.''
It denounced ``the unscrupulous use which Iraq is making of them [the hostages] with the sole and vain purpose of trying to divide the international community,'' a maneuver it said was ``inspired by alleged political criteria.''