Saudi Arabia's king denied reports Wednesday that the Saudis are willing to accept territorial concessions to defuse the Persian Gulf crisis, and a U.S. senator said Iraq and the multinational force are headed for war.
Thirty-two British hostages returned to London Wednesday, and about a dozen Americans also freed on Tuesday were headed home.One of the British hostages who was held at a strategic site in Iraq said he and his fellow captives briefly rioted when their guards refused to provide them with enough food or adequate toilet facilities.
Iraq's ambassador to France said all French citizens in Iraq and occupied Kuwait could return to France within two days.
Iraq's parliament on Tuesday endorsed Saddam Hussein's proposal to allow all French citizens in the country to leave, a gesture seen in Paris as an attempt to divide the West's anti-Iraqi alliance.
The more than 300 French citizens in Iraq and Kuwait are among hundreds of Westerners prohibited from leaving by Saddam since his invasion of the emirate Aug. 2. Many are being held at strategic installations to deter a possible attack by the U.S.-dominated multinational force in the Persian Gulf.
The Pentagon on Tuesday said the United States might send more troops to the region than the 240,000 who are there now or en route.
"The fact is that we're headed toward conflict," Sen. Richard Lugar, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during an interview on NBC's "Today" show.
"If the Iraqis don't move they're likely to be pushed out. Peace is not at hand," the Indiana Republican said in response to Saudi comments over the weekend that some interpreted as a peace overture to Saddam.
King Fahd - for the second time in two days - denied Wednesday the Saudis would be willing to accept territorial concessions to Iraq to prevent war.
The king stressed that the Saudis demand an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and the return to power in the oil-rich emirate of exiled Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who was deposed in the invasion nearly 12 weeks ago.
"The decisive and clear stand that the government of the kingdom set toward the Iraqi aggression on the state of Kuwait is firm and unchangeable, clear and unambigious," Fahd said in a statement distributed by the official Saudi Press Agency, monitored in Bahrain.
On Sunday Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister, was reported to have raised the possibility of allowing Iraq to keep some Kuwaiti territory if it withdraws its hundreds of thousands of troops.
Regarding the hostages, a jetliner landed outside London Wednesday with former British Prime Minister Edward Heath and the 32 Britons whose release from Iraq he had helped secure a day earlier.
Jim Thompson, one of the freed Britons, told reporters on the flight that he and 14 other foreigners held as human shields at an Iraqi armaments factory had rioted to protest bad conditions.
Thompson, 50, an engineering company manager, said they were held without enough food and with no proper toilets.
He did not say if any Americans were in the group.
"We were in really bad shape. We told the guards, unless you do something . . . we are going to have a disturbance," he was quoted as saying.
He said when nothing was done, they tore down fences, broke windows, painted anti-Saddam remarks on walls and shouted anti-Saddam slogans until guards forced them back into their rooms at gunpoint.
He did not say where the factory was located or when the incident happened.
The 14 Americans flown Tuesday from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, were to leave Wednesday aboard two Royal Jordanian Airlines flights. Nine of them were to fly to London, then take a Pan Am flight for New York on Thursday.
The rest of the group were to fly to New York via Amsterdam.
The number of Americans held in Iraq and Kuwait is estimated at 1,000.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that of the 14 American men released Tuesday, six are ailing, two have critically ill relatives at home and six are students.
Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said on Tuesday that U.S. officials were considering sending more troops to the region. That could give Operation Desert Shield a far greater offensive capability.
Williams said the joint chiefs chairman, Gen. Colin L. Powell was consulting with U.S. and Saudi officials on possibly expanding the deployment.