Secretary of State James A. Baker III said Wednesday the United States will strike "suddenly, massively and decisively" if military force is needed to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
Testifying before Congress, Baker staked out a hard line against Saddam. He said his proposed trip to Baghdad later this month was not an opening for negotiations."This is not to be a meeting of negotiation over the terms of the U.N. resolutions," Baker said, adding that he would stick with the international demands for complete and immediate Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.
Baker stopped short of saying the Bush administration would launch an attack to liberate Kuwait after Jan. 15, the deadline established last week by the United Nations
Security Council. But he left no doubt about the administration's determination to remove Saddam quickly.
"If it (force) must be used, it will be used suddenly, massively and decisively," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Meanwhile, Israel issued a veiled warning to take matters into its own hands if the United States fails to act.
Iraq on Wednesday began processing exit permits for more than 3,200 Soviet citizens, and Soviet officials said they were willing to discuss compensation for terminating the Soviets' work contracts, as Iraq demanded.
The United States, meanwhile, was preparing to seek more help from NATO allies in transporting troops to the Persian Gulf, and the Philippines government increased fuel prices by nearly 50 percent as a result of rising prices brought on by the gulf crisis.
Baker told lawmakers the U.N.-imposed embargo "has had little, if any, effect" on Iraq's "inclination to withdraw."
"Congress and the American people must tell Saddam Hussein in unmistakable actions and words: `Get out of Kuwait now or risk all.' "
President Bush, on a visit to South America, said he disagreed with those who believe that sanctions should be given up to 18 months to work.
"I've not been one who's been convinced that sanctions alone will bring him (Saddam) to his senses," Bush said Tuesday in Uruguay. (See story on A2.)
In Israel, there was increasing concern about how firmly the United States was prepared to act against Iraq.
An Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, said Wednesday that Israel has tacitly warned the United States that it will feel free to deal with the Iraqi military threat if the United States doesn't. Israeli officials said the report "went too far," but stressed they were watching Bush's latest diplomatic moves in the gulf "very carefully."
Iraq has accepted Bush's offer to send Baker to Baghdad and to receive Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Washington.
On the timing of that meeting, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, Yasser Abed-Rabbo, told Radio France Internationale Wednesday that Bush would meet with Aziz on Dec. 17.
White House spokesman Bill Harlow said no specific date had been set for the Aziz meeting. Bush had said it would take place the week of Dec. 10.
Meanwhile, oil prices fell and stocks rallied on a report that Iraq is willing to withdraw from Kuwait if allowed to keep a disputed section of a border-straddling oil field.
Britain's Sky television news said Saddam was proposing to relinquish all of Kuwait but the southern end of the Rumailah oil field.
Iraqi unaware of pullout report
Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Mohammed al-Mashat, was asked Wednesday about the British report.
"I haven't heard that, but all I can say is negotiations involve give and take. I let you conclude what it means," he said in an interview on CBS.
Economic effects of the gulf crisis are being felt far beyond Iraq.
Philippine President Corazon Aquino's government Wednesday raised fuel prices by more than 45 percent because of the soaring cost of crude oil. Long gas lines formed in the hours before the price inrease took effect.
Cheney to seek NATO help
Word that the United States will seek troop-transport help came from a U.S. official in Brussels, who said that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney will ask NATO allies for more help during a two-day meeting starting Thursday.
The official cited a need for planes and ships to bring more American troops and their gear to the gulf, for help in transporting U.S. troops through European ports, and also for more chemical-warfare protective gear.