IN a surprising development at press time, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev presented a plan for a settlement of the Gulf war in a meeting yesterday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and Deputy Prime Minister Saadoun Hammadi. Immediately after the meeting, the Iraqi officials returned to Baghdad to deliver the proposal to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Soviet presidential spokesman Vitaly Ignatenko declined to provide details, but he did indicate that the plan involved some linkage between Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and broader Middle East political issues. He added that there was no change in Soviet insistence on a ``unconditional withdrawal [of Iraqi troops] in accordance with all United Nations resolutions.''
The Soviet official characterized the Iraqi response as ``very constructive.'' He said Mr. Aziz did not insist on conditions for an Iraqi withdrawal, but rather described the earlier list of Iraqi demands as a ``program.''
Mr. Ignatenko revealed that no nation was informed in advance of the Gorbachev plan, but said the Soviet government believed it would be acceptable. He said they were ``even more'' hopeful now of a peaceful settlement of the war.