The government has agreed to free at least 157 more Europeans stranded in Iraq and occupied Kuwait, Western officials said Wednesday. The announcement came a day after Iraq's Parliament voted to free all Germans.
The Bush administration, seeking global support for a U.N. resolution to wage war on Iraq, has called the Baghdad government's piecemeal releases of hostages an attempt to divide the coalition arrayed against Saddam Hussein.There is general agreement among coalition members that the U.N.-ordered embargo on trade with Iraq is far from achieving its desired goal of forcing Saddam out of Kuwait, which his forces seized on Aug. 2.
Heavyweight boxing great Muhammad Ali left Amman for Baghdad Wednesday for talks with Saddam on the gulf crisis. Ali was accompanied by two associates and two members of the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East.
French right-wing politician Jean Marie Le Pen, in Baghdad since Sunday, will take 83 European hostages to Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, a member of his delegation said. Le Pen is a member of the European Parliament, which is scheduled to discuss the gulf crisis on Thursday.
The delegation member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those leaving Thursday would be 35 Britons, 15 Italians, 15 Germans, six Irish, five Dutch, three Danes, two Belgians, a Portuguese and a Greek.
He said two others who held French passports but were not full French citizens would fly out. He would not elaborate.
Iraq's parliament voted Tuesday night to release all the German hostages in response to recent statements by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl stressing the need for a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis.