President Bush will celebrate Thanksgiving with American troops in the blistering heat of Saudi Arabia where he will also consult with regional leaders about the 3-month-old standoff with Saddam Hussein, the White House said Friday.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials gave their "word of honor" that the families of hostages would be allowed to come and go freely if they visit Iraq at Christmas.Iraq called Western governments "inhumane" for urging hostage families to ignore its invitation for holiday reunions. It allowed some American, Japanese and British hostages to meet journalists on Friday to try to dispel Western reports of mistreatment.
Bush's long-anticipated trip was formally announced as the president dug in against the Iraqi dictator, saying that "no one wants a peaceful solution more than I do, (but) no one is more determined to reverse" Saddam's "naked aggression" against occupied Kuwait.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the Nov. 22 visit with the troops will cap an eight-day trip by the president with stops in Paris, Prague, Czechoslovakia and unidentified cities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. First lady Barbara Bush was expected to accompany the president.
Fitzwater, accompanying Bush on his six-day cross-country campaign tour on behalf of GOP candidates in next Tuesday's elections, said Bush will leave Washington Nov. 16.
French soldiers captured
Meanwhile, France said Friday that Iraqi troops captured three French soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol along the Saudi-Iraqi border this week but freed them later. Paris indicated the patrol may have blundered across the Iraqi border.
The three were turned over to the French Embassy in Baghdad, but Saddam Hussein's government still is holding thousands of Westerners trapped by its invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.
On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State James A. Baker III added meetings in Moscow next week on the Persian Gulf crisis with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze. He will meet Tuesday in Cairo, Egypt, with Chinese Foreign Minister Qichen Qian.
Baker leaves Saturday for a trip that includes other meetings with leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the ousted Kuwaiti government, Egypt, Turkey, Britain and France.
4 Americans to be freed
In announcing plans to free four sick Americans, Information Minister Latif Jassim denied the captives were being treated badly.
A U.S. official in Baghdad on Friday identified the four to be freed as Randall Trinh, 49, of Hacienda Heights, Calif.; Dr. Abdul Kangi, 50, of Glencoe, Ill., a Chicago suburb; Raymond Gales, a diplomat stationed in Kuwait and now in Baghdad; and Michael Barnes.
Trinh, a Vietnamese-American, is suffering from an acute ulcer, and Gales had unspecified medical problems, the official said on condition of anonymity.
No details were given on Barnes, and it was not known whether Kangi, an Indian-American, was sick.
Thousands of foreigners, including about 1,000 Americans, remain in Iraq and Kuwait. Iraq has selectively freed hundreds of them. The latest mass release was of about 300 French nationals this week.
- Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Friday, "I don't believe we can maintain a large American presence in Saudi Arabia for an extended period of time." He told an awards luncheon for business journalists in New York that this would be playing into the hands of nationalist forces.
Kissinger said he supports an effort in the gulf, but "I do not believe we can create a defense arrangement based on an extended American presence there."
- Arrangements were under way to provide postal services to Americans held in Iraq, said Steven Richards, deputy executive director of the American Red Cross. He spoke in Amman, Jordan, where he said an agreement was expected in meetings this weekend with officials from the Jordanian and Iraqi Red Crescent.
- Boxer Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns entertained U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia with verbal jabs and mock sparring at the start of an eight-day World USO tour.