Iraq Sends `Open Letter' As Arabs Express Concerns

IRAQ has appealed to President Clinton to abandon air raids against it, saying more attacks will not force cooperation.

In excerpts from an "open letter" transmitted by the official Iraqi News Agency Jan. 19, Saddam Hussein's chief spokesman at first sounded conciliatory, saying that "Iraq is not an enemy of America and does not want to be." But, Abdul-Jabbar Mohsen added, "Iraq is an enemy of imperialist policies that were practiced against Iraq and against its Arab brothers."

"Save your country from a lot of problems that, if they remain, will bring your country down," Mr. Mohsen advised Mr. Clinton, who said Jan. 18 that he "will not waver" from demanding that Iraq abide by United Nations resolutions.

The Iraqi message to Clinton was sent as Arab states appeared to be distancing themselves from the US-led Persian Gulf war coalition they joined to force Iraq's Army from Kuwait two years ago. Combat erupted Jan. 19 for the third consecutive day.

Russia also raised objections to the mounting violence. (See story, Page 7.) And the Vatican accepted an Iraqi request to intercede with the UN to seek dialogue and a halt to military action. Papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro said Iraqi provocations were clear, but he also said the coalition overreacted.

Iraq said 43 people were killed and at least 45 injured through Jan. 18 in coalition bombing and cruise missile attacks that mostly have been aimed at missile and radar sites.

Although most Arab countries supported the US-led military coalition in the Gulf War, Bush's use of force this time has alienated many as being heavy-handed. The Cairo-based Arab League said Jan. 18 that it "regrets the policy of military escalation against Iraq."

Many countries - including Iraq's arch-enemy Syria - criticized the West for taking swift action against Iraq while failing to enforce UN resolutions demanding that Israel take back more than 400 Palestinian expellees and that Serbs halt attacks on Bosnia-Herzegovina's Muslim-led government.

But Arab countries stopped short of lining up behind Saddam.

Foreign Minister Amr Moussa of Egypt, Washington's closest Arab ally, said his country continues to demand "respect for international legitimacy" from Iraq, referring to Saddam's persistent defiance of UN resolutions.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who put his country's bases at the disposal of the coalition jets carrying out the raids, said Jan. 18 that all UN resolutions must "be respected and implemented."

The Saudi statement, issued Jan. 18 after a Cabinet meeting, said the Saudi government stressed "the need to implement all Security Council resolutions in general whether on the situation in the Gulf, the Palestinian cause and the issue of deportees as well as the cause of people in Bosnia-Herzegovina."

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