President Bush said Wednesday he was running out of patience with Saddam Hussein's harsh treatment of American hostages, and in both the Middle East and Europe there was more talk of war against Iraq.
At the same time, Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed al-Mashat said in Washington Wednesday that an attack on Iraq would earn the United States the animosity of Moslems worldwide. He suggested it was time for negotiation - if other Middle Eastern conflicts were also considered.President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt said the Persian Gulf crisis had become so dangerous it "could explode at any time."
Mubarak urged "our brothers in Iraq" to realize the gravity of the situation their Aug. 2 invasion of oil-rich Kuwait has caused.
Meanwhile, two sailors died of their injuries hours after
being burned by bursts of steam aboard the USS Iwo Jima, boosting the number of men killed in the accident aboard the ship to 10.
Chief Petty Officer Robert Haagenson of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said Wednesday the two men died "very late last night (Tuesday) as a result of their injuries."
Six sailors died immediately when the pipe ruptured Tuesday morning. Four with severe burns were flown by helicopter to the hospital ship USS Comfort, one of two such vessels in the Persian Gulf. All four died.
The Iwo Jima fatalities brought to 43 the number of American servicemen killed during Operation Desert Shield, the U.S. military effort launched after Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
The commander of British forces in the Persian Gulf said Wednesday his troops would be fully operational within two weeks and warned that a military attack on Iraq was increasingly likely.
For Bush, a key issue was the Americans trapped in Iraq and Kuwait.
"The embassy is being starved," Bush said of the besieged U.S. Mission in occupied Kuwait. "The people out there are not being resupplied.
"The American flag is flying over the Kuwait Embassy and our people inside are being starved by a brutal dictator."
Speaking to reporters in Virginia, where he was campaigning for a congressional candidate, Bush said:
"Do you think I'm concerned about it? You're darn right I am. And what I'm going to do about it - let's just wait and see, because I have had it with that kind of treatment of Americans."
On Tuesday, Saddam said he was making final preparations for war, and Bush discussed possible military action with congressional leaders.
A few diplomats have held out at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, defying an Iraqi order to close missions in the annexed nation. Iraq has responded by cutting utilities and surrounding the compound with troops. Only the British and American embassies remain open.
In addition, about 1,000 Americans are among the Westerners being held in Kuwait and Iraq to deter attack by the U.S.-led multinational forces stationed in the gulf region. Many are being held at strategic sites as human shields.
Asked Wednesday if the hostages have become a more important part of his gulf strategy, Bush said: "I wouldn't say more, but I am very concerned about it."
The administration of former President Ronald Reagan used the safety of Americans as a pretext to invade Grenada in 1983, while the Bush administration also cited the safety of Americans when he sent troops to Panama in 1989.
Bush said, however, the recent comments from the administration about the possible use of American military might against Iraq should not be interpreted as an indication war was imminent or unavoidable.
"You don't use pretext when you have force deployed," Bush said Wednesday. "You just do what's right."
The United States has more than 210,000 troops in the gulf region and recently announced plans to send 100,000 more. About 100,000 soldiers have been deployed by other nations. The multinational force faces about 460,000 Iraqi troops stationed in southern Iraq and Kuwait.
The Iraqi ambassador, al-Mashat, said any attack on Iraq would earn Americans the animosity of all Iraqis and Moslems throughout the world who, he said, view the use of force in the gulf region as a new form of colonialism.
He said Iraq was ready to begin negotiations on the crisis if issues such as the Lebanon civil war and Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank - land claimed by Palestinians - were included in the talks.
Al-Mashat also reiterated claims that Iraqi agents in Kuwait had seized a secret document showing that the CIA and Kuwaiti intelligence were plotting against Iraq prior to the invasion.
"What I'm saying is there was a conspiracy by Kuwait with the support of the United States. This is a document that will substantiate what I say," al-Mashat said.
Peter Earnest, a spokesman for the U.S. intelligence agency, has dismissed the document as a fake.