Secretary of State James A. Baker III on Saturday claimed success in his mission to shore up the anti-Iraq coalition, but the Baghdad government accused the United States of dragging its allies toward a war they did not want.
Baker flew back to Washington after a weeklong round of diplomacy that ended with talks in Paris. After meeting with French President Francois Mitterrand, he expressed satisfaction with the state of the alliance that came together after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's troops seized Kuwait on Aug. 2."We believe we are totally united," the secretary of state told reporters. "We have built a consensus, we have increased the pressure on Saddam Hussein."
But, he added, "we must heighten the pressure further. Indeed we have to lay the foundation for the use of force should that become necessary. Clearly, one way to do that is to get ready militarily."
After the Paris meeting, it was still unclear whether the French would be willing to fight Iraq. France has sent 13,000 troops to the Persian Gulf region.
Before Baker's talks with Mitterrand, a senior American official had expressed doubts about France's commitment to the alliance.
Baker declined to say directly whether Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Roland Dumas had pledged French participation in any military action against Saddam. However, he called their talks "very positive and successful."
Mitterrand's spokesman, Hubert Vedrine, said the French president told Baker that France's position "consists of the strict application" of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Those resolutions have included the economic sanctions against Iraq, a call for the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait and the demand that all foreign hostages be freed.
During Baker's trip, U.S. officials said the American contingent in the gulf would be increased by up to 200,000 troops. Already, about 230,000 U.S. forces are deployed in the region, facing 430,000 Iraqi troops in southern Iraq and Kuwait.
Iraq's foreign minister said the plans to dramatically strengthen the U.S. deployment proved that Washington had planned an offensive from the beginning. The Iraqi official, Tariq Aziz, said President Bush had misled the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt and other nations about the true mission of the multinational force.
The increased deployment "makes those who sent troops to the region partners in the American designs for aggression against Iraq," Aziz said in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency.
A senior U.S. official said Baker had not encountered opposition to a U.N. resolution to authorize force to liberate Kuwait. During the trip, he consulted with the governments of the Soviet Union, China, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Bahrain, plus the Kuwaiti government-in-exile.
In other developments:
- The three American hostages who arrived in Germany on Friday are in good physical condition, a U.S. military spokesman said Saturday. The spokesman did not provide details or say when they would leave a military hospital in Wiesbaden. The three are: Miles Hoffman, 33, of Columbus, Ga.; Don Swanke, 66, of Westlake Village, Calif., and Swanke's wife, Brenda.
- Greece's defense ministry on Saturday said a Greek frigate on patrol in the Red Sea summoned the U.S. cruiser Philippine Sea for help in trying to intercept a Sudanese freighter. In Friday's incident, the American ship fired across the ship's bow and U.S. troops boarded the vessel, the ministry said. After inspection, the freighter, the Omdurman, was permitted to continue its voyage.
- Three British women met with their captive husbands in Iraq. The three were among 10 women who arrived a day earlier at the invitation of the Iraqi government. The British government had discouraged the visit.
- Four Italian men and two Belgians released by Iraq arrived in Amman, Jordan, on their way home. Italy's ambassador to Jordan said the Italians had been workers in Kuwait. No information on the Belgians was immediately available.
- Rep. Stephen Solarz, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters in Saudi Arabia that if Saddam is allowed to keep Kuwait, "the signal will go out to other despots around the world that once again aggression does pay." Solarz, D-N.Y., and Rep. John Murtha, R-Pa., met with troops of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division.