Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Tuesday warned Iraq the United Nations has not restricted the use of military force to liberate Kuwait.
Prince Saud's assertion at a news conference in Jiddah, Saudia Arabia, as he saw Secretary of State James A. Baker III off to Egypt marked a hardening of the anti-Iraq coalition."We would like a peaceful settlement, but that option is in the hands of the Iraqis," the foreign minister said.
He confirmed, meanwhile, that King Fahd and Baker had devised a joint command in the event of war. U.S. troops defending Saudi Arabia would be under the joint command, but if the Americans go into combat elsewhere in the Persian Gulf they would take orders only from U.S. commanders.
Saud said Baker had not discussed military options with the Saudis during his talks Monday in Jiddah.
However, Saud said the U.N. resolutions demanding that Iraq give up Kuwait do not foreclose force.
"The United Nations has not put any restrictions on what actions the United Nations would take to implement this," Saud said.
In Cairo, Baker was seeking reaffirmation of Egypt's role in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq.
He met with President Hosni Mubarak, who has sent about 14,000 troops to defend Saudi Arabia and may double that number, and also met later with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.
Qian was asked whether his government would support military action against Iraq.
"All armed forces have two roles to play," the Chinese official said. "One is to fight a war, and the other is to seek peace."
An official of the exiled Kuwaiti government, meanwhile, offered to negotiate with Iraq over Saddam's territorial claim against Kuwait.
Even before the Aug. 2 invasion, ousted Housing Minister Yahia al-Sumait said Kuwait's rulers were ready to discuss the dispute. And now, he said that if Iraq withdrew its troops, "we are ready to sit down and negotiate. It's up to them."
U.S. military reserves for the first time are being called to active duty for combat roles in the gulf, a Pentagon source says.
The decision to call a few Marines, while not significantly increasing U.S. combat capability in the gulf, marks an important departure for the Pentagon. It opens the way to possible use of major Army reserve combat units in Operation Desert Shield. The Marine call-up is relatively small. Those being called for combat roles are among 800 Marine Corps Reserve members being ordered to active duty, said the Pentagon source, who insisted on anonymity.
Almost seven in 10 Americans responding to a survey expect the United States to become involved in a war with Iraq, and most respondents say America should attack if Iraq mistreats U.S. hostages.
The poll, conducted by ABC News and released Monday, said 65 percent of those surveyed approve of President Bush's handling of the crisis, about the same as a poll last month.
In other developments:
- Iraq ordered the release of 106 foreigners, including some who were held as "human shields" at key installations, Iraq's official news agency said Tuesday. It said those to be freed are 77 Japanese, 20 Italians, five Swedes, two Germans and two Portuguese.
The Iraqi News Agency said the move to free more hostages was in response to appeals made by various visiting delegations.
- Mikhail Gorbachev's special envoy to the Middle East has told Western diplomats that his country is not ruling out the use of force against Iraq, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.
Yevgeny Primakov told ambassadors in Moscow that a translator in Paris had erred last week in interpreting Gorbachev as saying a military option was "unacceptable," the BBC said.
Primakov has traveled twice to Baghdad in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.