Millions of Iranians on Friday protested the U.S.-led forces in the Persian Gulf with chants of "Death to America!" and Iraq warned that war in the region would ravage other Arab states and Israel.
President Bush promised the exiled leader of Kuwait that his country will not remain under Iraqi control."Kuwait's sovereignty and territorial integrity will be restored," Bush said after meeting with Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah. The White House meeting was intended as a sign that the United States still regards the emir as the legitimate ruler of Kuwait, which Iraq invaded Aug. 2.
A Bush aide said the graphic account of the Iraqi occupation that the exiled ruler gave Bush could lead the president to push for tougher U.N. action against Saddam Hussein, including U.N.-backed military action.
"That's one of those things that's conceivable," said Brent Scowcroft, the president's national security adviser.
Al-Sabah described "terrifying conditions" in Kuwait, including soldiers taking patients off life support systems and removing babies from incubators so the equipment could be shipped back to Iraq, Scowcroft said.
Rep. Les Aspin, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he feels the administration "is looking more favorably on an early war option."
The Wisconsin Democrat said he based this assessment on four factors: The diminishing chances of Kuwait regaining its independence, cooler weather, Moslems' January pilgrimage to Mecca, which would make fighting then more difficult, and a more hawkish tone to Bush administration remarks.
Tehran radio, monitored in Nicosia, said millions of Iranians staged demonstrations nationwide, denouncing the United States and Israel.
"We have seen how they have defiled our sacred lands, the land of divine revelations, just as they did in Jerusalem, by bringing corruption, devastation, godlessness and debauchery to that hallowed region," a reporter said in a live report from the Tehran rally.
Iran has condemned Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, but it also has deplored the U.S.-led forces sent to protect Saudi Arabia and enforce a U.N.-imposed embargo against Baghdad. It says it is honoring the blockade, however.
The protests capped a week of celebrations marking the anniversary of the beginning of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Iran sees cause for celebration because last month Baghdad caved in to its demands for peace, ending two years of deadlocked talks. Some observers say that in return Baghdad expects Iran to circumvent the embargo and deliver food to Iraq.
The official Iraqi News Agency said Saddam planned a speech Sunday, the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam.
The agency said he would address a Baghdad rally on the theme, "Holy War is the Duty of All Believers to Purge the Holy Shrines of Occupation."
Iraq's government newspaper Al-Jomhouriya again warned about widespread devastation if war broke out.