President Bush said Friday Iraq President Saddam Hussein's aggression against Kuwait must "not be rewarded by some compromise."
The president's comment came shortly before Yergeni Primakov, a member of the Soviet Presidential Council, denied a published report that he was carrying a message from Saddam.Primakov, who visited Baghdad last week and met with Secretary of State James Baker on Thursday, reportedly heard an offer from Saddam of partial Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, under certain conditions.
But Primakov, during his visit with Bush on Friday, told reporters he had "no message from Saddam Hussein. I am not a messenger."
After his meeting with Baker on Thursday, Primakov told reporters, "We should look for some possibilities to avoid - to avoid the military collisions, but not to reward Iraq for its actions."
National security adviser Brent Scowcroft, who met with Primakov Thursday, told reporters there was nothing new that would push the peace process forward.
Before meeting with Primakov, Bush told leaders of the National Italian American Foundation, "I am determined Saddam Hussein's aggression will not be rewarded by some compromise, not be rewarded by failing to get him totally out of Kuwait and restore the legitimate rule."
In that respect Bush was repeating the hardline message to Saddam that has highlighted Baker's recent testimony on Capitol Hill.
"Saddam Hussein is still trying to make people think that it is the Arab world against America and he couldn't be more wrong," Bush told the Italian-American group.
Appearing for the second day on Capitol Hill to explain Bush's policy toward Saddam and the crisis in the Persian Gulf, Baker once again ruled out a partial or conditional Iraqi withdrawal from occupied Kuwait.
Such concessions to the Iraqi president, Baker said, would reward unprovoked aggression in a pattern that led to World War II 50 years ago. "Action that moves toward a partial solution would be self-defeating appeasement," he warned Thursday.
Meanwhile, Iraq said Friday it will ration gasoline beginning next week, and it ordered all foreigners in occupied Kuwait to report to authorities or face punishment.
The rationing appeared to be another sign that the U.N. trade embargo was hurting the government. Iraq is already rationing food staples such as meat, milk and bread.
Also, because of the trade sanctions imposed after Iraq's August invasion of Kuwait, Baghdad lacks the imported materials needed to refine the oil it pumps, sources in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity.
In New York, oil prices dropped $2.15 in early trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, to $34.65 a barrel.