Fourteen Americans left the Iraqi capital for Jordan Tuesday after being freed by Saddam Hussein's government. They departed as Britain worked to gain the release of 50 sick or elderly Britons.
"I was waiting for this moment. I am extremely happy but sad at the same time because I am leaving many of my friends and colleagues," Jack Fraser, one of the freed Americans, told an Associated Press reporter in Baghdad.Fraser, 53, of Santa Ana, Calif., worked for a construction company and had been held in a diplomatic compound in Bagh-dad.
Another freed American, 44-year-old John Thompson, said, "I was in Iraq for the last four years, working on a Baghdad city master plan."
Thompson said he was eager to see his 68-year-old mother, Lilo Thompson of Frankfurt, Germany, because she is going blind. "She had a retinal separation, and the stress that I'm stuck in Iraq had caused her a heart attack," he said. "I'm her only child and she wanted to see me badly."
No list of all 14 Americans was released by officials, and no other names were immediately available.
About 1,000 Americans remain trapped in Iraq and Kuwait.
There were also indications, meanwhile, that the Arab world was softening its hard line in dealing with Iraq - including a statement by Saudi King Fahd that Saddam would not lose face if he were to withdraw his troops.
If Iraq restores the al-Sabah family as Kuwait's rulers, Saudi Arabia and Egypt said there could be talks on the disputes that led to the invasion of the oil-rich emirate.
A Kuwaiti newspaper in Saudi Arabia reported on Monday that Saddam had dreamed the prophet Mohammed appeared before him and said Iraq's missiles "were pointed in the wrong direction."
The missiles are aimed toward Saudi Arabia, where a U.S.-led multinational force is assembled.
Middle East observers said the dream report indicated Saddam could be preparing his people for a withdrawal from Kuwait.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, with President Bush in Burlington, Vt., said Tuesday of Saddam's reported dream, "No comment on dreams. I have enough problem dealing with reality."
After overrunning Kuwait on Aug. 2, Saddam detained some foreign nationals as "human shields" at strategic sites in Iraq. He refused to allow many other foreigners to leave Iraq and occupied Kuwait. None of the Americans freed Tuesday was part of the "human shield."
In Washington, Saudi Arabia's ambassador denied Tuesday that the kingdom wants Kuwait to yield territory to invading Iraq. "This is a decision for the Kuwaitis, not for us," Prince Bandar said.
The Saudi ambassador was summoned to the State Department after reports quoting the Saudi Defense Minister, Prince Sultan, had raised the possibility of giving Iraq some Kuwaiti territory in order to defuse the Persian Gulf crisis.
Saddam "should not be under any disillusion," Bandar told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
"This is a decision for the Kuwaitis, not for us," the ambassador said. "But we don't think aggression should be rewarded."
In another development, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz Tuesday to arrange freedom for 50 or more Britons. There are an estimated 1,400 Britons in Kuwait and Iraq.
Also Tuesday, five Finnish men left Iraq.
Kuwait's emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, met in London Tuesday with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to discuss the future of his nation. Thatcher reportedly stressed that Britain stands behind the United States in demanding that Saddam withdraw all his troops unconditionally.
Oil prices dropped by more than $5 a barrel Monday amid reports the Saudis might agree to let Iraq keep some Kuwaiti territory but recovered somewhat in trading in London Tuesday. Since the invasion, when the world oil price was $22 a barrel, oil prices have fluctuated wildly, at one point topping $40 a barrel.
Oil prices plunged Monday following reported remarks made on Sunday by Prince Sultan that Arab nations are willing to grant Iraq "all its rights." That was interpreted as a sign the Saudis are prepared to agree to territorial concessions by Kuwait.
The same day, however, Prince Sultan reiterated that "any solution must provide for an unconditional Iraqi pullout from Kuwait and the return of the rule of the al-Sabah family."
A reporter who covered the speech for The Associated Press said the prince declared "rights, whether valid or doubtful" could always be discussed, but only after Iraqi withdrawal - with no mention of "all rights."