After three months without adequate food or water in the besieged U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, Ambassador Nathaniel Howell and his staff left Baghdad for home Thursday on a chartered flight that reportedly carried 25 other Americans.
Officials said the last five U.S. diplomats from Kuwait were among 94 passengers on an Iraqi Airways flight to Frankfurt, Germany. It was said to be the last charter plane carrying foreigners from Iraq and occupied Kuwait.Howell and Barbara Bodine, the deputy chief of mission in Kuwait, and three other American diplomats earlier landed in Baghdad aboard a U.S.-chartered Iraqi Airways plane. They were whisked through the departure lounge at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport and did not talk to reporters.
"They are in good spirits and good shape and ready to get back to the States," a U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad said on condition of anonymity.
He said the compound in Kuwait was left unstaffed but open and that Iraqi authorities had pledged it would not be disturbed.
The departure of the American diplomats from Kuwait ended a four-month diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iraq. Howell and his colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait had defied Iraqi orders to close in August. Gradually, all foreigners but the British and Americans removed their diplomats as Iraq cut off supplies.
The trapped U.S. diplomats subsisted for three months on canned tuna and boiled water from the embassy's swimming pool but were allowed emergency supplies in recent weeks. Britain announced Wednesday that its last embassy employees would leave within the week.
Among those who had waited for Thursday's flight to Frankfurt were three families who missed a Tuesday flight because the Kuwaiti wives of Americans had to obtain Iraqi passports, officials said.
In other developments Thursday:
- Japan's parliament approved $1 billion to help support multinational forces deployed against Iraq - the final portion of $2 billion already pledged by Tokyo. In all, Japan has pledged $4 billion for efforts to solve the gulf crisis - $2 billion for the multinational forces and $2 billion in aid for nations suffering from the international embargo against Iraq.
- OPEC ministers in Vienna endorsed maintaining high crude production to ease any oil shortages caused by the gulf crisis and pledged to sharply reduce their output once it is resolved.
- Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze arrived in Turkey for two days of discussions that will center on the gulf crisis. Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid arrived in Iran on the third leg of an Arab peace initiative. Bendjedid met with Saddam on Wednesday and Jordan's King Hussein the day before, but Arab diplomats said he apparently canceled a stop in Saudi Arabia, indicating his initiative was in trouble.
Baghdad remains at odds with Washington over when Secretary of State James Baker can visit Baghdad for talks on preventing war.
There is no disagreement over Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, meeting with President Bush in Washington on Monday, but the United States says it will not receive him unless a date has been set for Baker's visit.