Iraq sent President Saddam Hussein's closest aide to Morocco Tuesday to discuss its call for an emergency Arab summit, keeping hopes alive for a diplomatic break in the Persian Gulf crisis.
Meanwhile, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt made a surprise trip to Libya for talks with leader Moammar Gadhafi on the situation.Oil prices closed Monday at $31.87 a barrel on the New York Exchange, down $2.02 as the war rhetoric eased.
In Washington Tuesday, two key Republican senators said that President Bush should summon Congress into special session to seek approval for U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf.
Neither Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole nor Sen. Richard Lugar called for a formal declaration of war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
But Dole said he wants a "declaration of support and a willingness to commit whatever resources it takes to fulfill the mission." Lugar said he wants "authorization for the president to act" and said he was concerned that otherwise, war could break out because Saddam misunderstood U.S. resolve.
Bush refused to comment. But Dole said he had spoken with the president over the weekend and intended to talk with him later Tuesday.
Before leaving for the Moroccan capital, Rabat, Iraq's First Deputy Prime Minister Taha Yassin Ramadan said he was carrying a letter from Saddam to the Moroccan leader, King Hassan II, noting the "dangers facing the Arabs" by the gulf crisis, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.
Morocco has contributed 1,700 troops to the multinational force that has massed in the Saudi desert following Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, but the nation has maintained contact with Iraq.
Ramadan said Baghdad "supports any serious Arab effort on any level that will serve the interests of the Arab nation." But he said Arab summits "should not be forums at which the American Pentagon's policies are translated into Arabic."
He repeated the three conditions Iraq has set for attending such a meeting: that Iraq is consulted in advance on the agenda; the timing and location are chosen so that Saddam will be able to attend; and the agenda also include all Middle East issues, including the Palestine question.
Saddam has insisted on tying his withdrawal from Kuwait to Israel's pulling back from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Mubarak, who has previously rejected Arab summit proposals, was met Tuesday by Gadhafi in the Libyan seaside town of Sirte, 250 miles east of Libya's capital, Tripoli, the Egyptian Middle East News Agency reported.
Egypt has not responded officially to Morocco's call, and a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Monday that Egypt was still studying the issue.
The agenda of the Mubarak-Gadhafi talks was not immediately clear, but the two leaders have been on opposite ends of the crisis.
Mubarak has been at the forefront of Arab opposition to Saddam. Gadhafi has opposed the Iraqi invasion but also harshly criticized the presence of Western troops in Saudi Arabia.
A senior government official in Egypt said on Monday that Egypt was still studying Morocco's Arab summit call.
Lugar wants Bush to state aims
Lugar, speaking on NBC's "Today" show, said: "I think the president must lay out now to the nation and the Congress specifically what our aims are.
"And then he must call for a session of the Congress and set a date for the return of the Congress to debate those issues and vote, affirmatively I would presume, so that we have authorization for what is required."
Lugar, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Congress need not approve the War Powers act, the congressional mandate for war.
"It occurs to me congressional leaders and the president can agree upon an authorization, but clearly the president needs to have an up-and-down vote by members of the Congress representing the people of this country, so that our unity is clear, our staying power is clear and the people around the world, friend and foe alike, know that we are in this."
Sen. Sam Nunn, who publicly questioned Bush's decision to deploy another 200,000 troops to the gulf, also supported greater congressional involvement.
"If there ever is a casebook example of the constitutional power of congress to declare war, this is it," the Georgia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said.
All sides urged to maintain contact
In the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark urged all sides to maintain contact as a way to avoid war.
"Unwillingness to talk is never acceptable. You must not lose complete communication with an enemy because ignorance can cause mistakes," said Clark, who met on Monday with Saddam.
Saddam also told Clark: "We should all work for the sake of peace," the Iraqi News Agency agency reported.
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen met Monday in Baghdad and supported the call for an Arab summit.
The United States has deployed 230,000 troops in Saudi Arabia as part of a more than 300,000-strong multinational force arrayed against Iraq, and Bush last week announced plans to send about 200,000 more soldiers.
In other developments:
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she believes Saddam is close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Speaking in the House of Commons, she reiterated that force must be used unless Iraq ends its 3-month-old occupation of Kuwait.
- Sudan said Tuesday that Morocco's Arab summit plan is a last chance for a peaceful settlement to the gulf crisis.
- U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar told Japanese leaders Tuesday that it will be difficult to solve the gulf crisis peacefully and that there was little room for him to negotiate.
Perez de Cuellar, in Tokyo to attend Emperor Akihito's enthronement Monday, discussed the gulf situation in separate meetings with Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and Foreign Minister Taro Nakayama.
- Secretary of State James A. Baker III is making a hastily arranged visit to Bermuda for talks with Canadian External Affairs Minister Joe Clark on resolving the Persian Gulf crisis.
Canada has dispatched more than a dozen jet fighters to the gulf in support of the U.S.-led multinational effort there, and it has not ruled out the possibility of sending ground forces.