Saddam Hussein carried on talks with a top Soviet official Friday while his foreign minister accused the United States and its allies of pushing the world "to the brink of a devastating war."
The United Nations speech prepared by Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz came in response to President Bush's demand for Iraq to end its 9-week-old occupation of neighboring Kuwait.In Washington, the State Department said about 300 Americans and foreign-born family members have signed up for an evacuation flight due to leave Kuwait on Wednesday. U.S. officials estimate at least 900 Americans remain trapped in Kuwait and Iraq following Saddam's invasion of the oil-rich emirate Aug. 2.
Aziz accused America and its allies of "seeking to gain control over the oil reserves in the gulf so as to have a free hand in manipulating the needs of the world, and especially the needs of the peoples of the Third World, for this important commodity."
The speech, delivered Friday afternoon by Iraq's second-ranked U.N. representative, SabahTalat Kadrat, reiterated Saddam's view that all Middle East problems - "Palestine, Lebanon, the gulf and others" - be considered on the same basis and "on an equal footing."
Bush demanded an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait but suggested before the world body Monday that there could be "opportunities" later to promote negotiations on Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.Britain and France have made similar suggestions, which could allow Saddam a face-saving exit from the oil-rich emirate.
In Baghdad, Saddam met with an aide to Mikhail S. Gorbachev and accepted a message from the Soviet president. The official Iraqi News Agency did not disclose the contents of the message.
The news agency said Saddam and the Soviet envoy, Yevgeny Primakov, discussed the gulf crisis and stressed "the desire for peace." Soviet diplomatic sources reported that Primakov urged Saddam to cooperate with U.N. resolutions demanding the Iraqi pullout.
It was not clear if they discussed the plight of 5,000 Soviets unable to leave Iraq. About 4,500 of the Soviets in Iraq are key oil industry workers. Most are employed in new oil fields being developed by Iraq.
"The Iraqis are now dependent on these oil people," a source in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity. "If they go, no one else will come in to operate these fields."
Other Soviets in Iraq are military advisers who had been training Iraqi soldiers in the use of Soviet-made weaponry and other equipment. Moscow was Iraq's largest weapons supplier before Aug. 2, but cut trade after the invasion.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Iraq has developed high-explosive devices that pack the equivalent destructive power of small nuclear bombs.
The fuel-air explosives have 10 times the power of conventional explosives and create a huge fireball and shock wave over a concentrated area, without the radiation fallout associated with nuclear weapons, the newspaper reported, quoting Pentagon officials.
The Times said earlier reports indicated Iraq received the scientific knowledge to build these weapons from the German arms industry.
Military officials say the United States has no ready defense against the explosives, which could devastate oil fields, air bases and troops, the newspaper reported.
The United States now has 170,000 troops in Saudi Arabia and on ships in the area, making up most of the estimated 200,000-member international force. The Pentagon says Iraq has massed 460,000 troops in Kuwait since the invasion.