Three Iraqi passenger planes landed Wednesday in the Jordanian capital, raising questions about Jordan's support for a new U.N. air embargo against Iraq. Baghdad criticized Washington and Moscow for their role in the U.N. crackdown.
The Iraqi planes landing in Amman carried passengers, and it was not known what their cargo holds contained. The planes all returned to Baghdad.Jordan pledged Wednesday to abide by the U.N. embargo and said Iraqi passenger aircraft were not included in the resolution approved Tuesday by the U.N. Security Council. A Jordanian Cabinet minister said inspections of the Iraqi aircraft began with the third flight Wednesday, and a senior aviation official said the U.N. or other officials were free to check the Iraqi cargo holds.
The U.N. resolution does not mention passenger planes but says that all planes traveling to and from Iraq should be checked to make sure they are not carrying cargo prohibited by the U.N. trade sanctions. The resolution prohibits the use of force to stop planes but allows for the detention of aircraft.
The world body, in its ninth resolution against Iraq since the invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, also reaffirmed its embargo against Iraqi shipping and the freezing of Iraqi assets overseas to try to force Iraq to withdraw.
The United States and Soviet Union both indicated U.N. military action could be in store unless Iraq pulls out. War "is not a desirable option, but it is one of the options contained in the U.N. Charter," Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze told the world body on Tuesday.
Iraq's ambassador, Abdul Al-Anbari, called the U.N. actions "an act of war." The official Iraq News Agency Wednesday accused the Soviet Union - a former ally - of being bribed by the United States and gulf sheiks.
"We tell Shevardnadze, if you are not concerned about the relations of friendship with the Arabs and want to be dragged into the alliance of American hostility, then the Arabs will not be concerned about the likes of you," the news agency said.
Baghdad radio denounced the air embargo Wednesday and said it was imposed "on the directives of the hostile policy" of President Bush.
Iraqi officials Wednesday announced more food rationing starting this weekend because of the U.N. embargo. Trade and Finance Minister Mohammed Mahdi Saleh said the rationing will include rice, flour, cooking oil, sugar and tea.
The lack of prospects for resolution of the nearly 8-week-old crisis led to a 4.75 percent fall Wednesday morning on the Tokyo stock exchange, which has dropped 28 percent since Iraq's invasion.
Oil prices, which have nearly doubled following the invasion, were trading lower on the New York futures market Wednesday morning, with light sweet crude down 28 cents to $37.25 per barrel on contracts for November delivery.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Wednesday there is an increasing likelihood that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will lash out with military force to try to break the U.N. embargo.
"We may have seen in the last 48 or 72 hours the beginning commentary from him that would indicate that the sanctions are beginning to bite," Cheney told a conference of economists in Washington.
His comments followed Saddam's videotaped message to Americans, broadcast Tuesday and Wednesday, that said U.S. gulf forces faced the prospect of bigger losses than those suffered in the Vietnam War.
Iraq continues buildup
The Defense Department reported Tuesday that about 430,000 Iraqi soldiers are now in southern Iraq and Kuwait, up from 360,000 last week.
The U.S. aircraft carrier Independence and its 70 attack jets will soon join other warships in the gulf in a show of force, a U.S. military source in the gulf said Wednesday. It would be the first U.S. carrier in the gulf since 1974.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say when the 1,000-foot Independence would sail in from the Arabian Sea.
The Pentagon declined comment.
Officials concerned about vulnerability had been reluctant to send a carrier into the gulf, whose entrance is the narrow Strait of Hormuz.
About 165,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed in the Saudi desert.
Jordan joined Egypt Wednesday in saying it will abide by the Security Council resolution calling for an embargo on the aircraft of Iraq and occupied Kuwait.
"The civil aviation authority and concerned government departments will implement this resolution," Jordan's official Petra news agency quoted an unidentified Jordanian transport ministry official as saying.
However, three regularly scheduled Iraqi Airways flights arrived in Amman from Baghdad Wednesday. The first carried 185 people aboard - including 11 British women and children. The two flights that landed later Wednesday also carried Westerners.
Jordanian officials said they were checking on details of the U.N. resolution. "According to our initial studying of the resolution, we understand that it does not bar human traffic," said a Cabinet minister on condition of anonymity.
The Security Council resolution passed 14-1 on Tuesday, with Cuba the only country voting no. In an unusual move intended to give symbolic weight to the resolution, 13 of the 15 countries represented on the Security Council sent their foreign ministers to cast their countries' vote. Ordinarily, countries allow their ambassadors at the United Nations to cast their votes.
Few supplies since invasion
Only a few supplies have been flown in to Baghdad since the invasion, according to Western officials.
The Security Council already has authorized military enforcement of a sea embargo. The air embargo is largely symbolic, since most trade with Iraq is by land and has already been halted. Iraq's only major export is oil.
Iraq has sought a way around the embargo by seeking better relations with Iran - its bitter foe in the 1980-88 war - and reportedly attempted to exchange oil for food. Syrian President Hafez Assad reportedly failed during his visit to Tehran this week to persuade the Iranians not to ship supplies to Iraq.
Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani reportedly has said that food shipments to Iraq do not violate the U.N. embargo because "humanitarian shipments" are permitted.
Terrorist issues warning
Terrorist leader Mohammed Abul Abbas warned of a "war without limits" if Iraq is attacked and threatened in an interview published Wednesday to strike against the United States and Western Europe.
"The Palestinians support Baghdad with all their force because Baghdad was the first to link the Palestinian cause to the gulf and the petroleum crisis," Abul Abbas, head of the Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told the Paris daily Le Figaro.