Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made a surprise call to President Bush Friday to offer some new ideas for peacefully resolving the Persian Gulf crisis.
Bush declined to reveal specifics of what Gorbachev said in their 25-minute conversation, but administration officials later characterized the proposals as innovative and diplomatic, but with no certainty of success.At Gorbachev's suggestion, however, Bush met twice during the day with the Soviet ambassador, Alexander Bessmertmykh, to discuss the Russian initiative in depth.
Bush was clearly pleased by the timely show of superpower solidarity, emphasizing that he and Gorbachev remain "in sync" on the demand that Iraq withdraw fully from Kuwait by Jan. 15.
In other gulf-related developments:
- Former President Carter on Friday called for an international peace conference to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis and Palestinian rights.
"War is neither inevitable nor necessary to resolve the gulf crisis," Democrat Carter said in a statement issued by the Carter Center. "Iraq's obduracy and U.S. quibbling over meeting dates and `linkage' have moved us slowly but inexorably toward military action."
- Israelis, worried about the possibility of war, crowded into grocery stores Friday to stock up on food and flashlights as the Israeli civil defense started preparing them to act in an emergency.
- An American envoy is heading to Israel this weekend to urge restraint should fighting break out in the Middle East. But Israeli leaders are expected to tell him they won't sit back if Iraq attacks.
- The Canadian government Friday dispatched six additional CF-18 fighter jets and a Boeing 707 air-to-air refueling plane to the region.
Defense chief John de Chastelain told reporters in Ottawa the planes would leave the Canadian Forces Base in southern Germany and would be used to provide 24-hour protection for three Canadian ships already in the gulf.
- Calls for worldwide holy war came from a pro-Baghdad Islamic conference Friday. Acting on the urging of Saddam Hussein, the conference said the holy war should be waged if Iraq or any other Muslim country is attacked by enemies led by the United States.
- Operation Desert Shield cost the United States $10 billion last year, but most of that has been defrayed by contributions from the United States' Persian Gulf allies, the White House said Friday.
- Anti-war demonstrations were held throughout the capital Friday, including a vocal protest that temporarily disrupted Senate debate on whether to authorize the use of force to oust Iraq from Kuwait.
"No blood for oil! No war for Bush!" the 11 protesters in the Senate gallery suddenly began shouting in the middle of a late-morning speech by Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., one of the major figures opposed to military action.
- U.S. forces will attempt to kill Saddam during the first phase of a war with Iraq, a New York newspaper reported Friday, quoting unnamed Pentagon officials.
New York Newsday quoted a senior military planner as saying, "He (Saddam) is considered part of the national command structure and that is what we plan to eliminate first."
- French authorities have refused to register a baby called Saddam and his Muslim parents are angry, Cairo Radio reported Friday.
The state-owned radio said the boy was born to Senegalese parents on Christmas Eve and named Saddam, but Paris municipal authorities have refused to register the child despite protests by his mother and father.
France has sent troops to the Persian Gulf region to deter aggression by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and French authorities felt the use of Saddam's name was a dishonor to French troops risking their lives in the gulf, the radio added.
- Workers who are more accustomed to making bedsheets for babies are now turning out material for body bags for Operation Desert Shield.
"I hope nobody has to use these," Edward Lustic, an employee of Aldan Rubber Co., Philadelphia, said this week as he inspected the olive-color, rubber-coated nylon fabric that will be fashioned into body bags.
Barry Fleischer, Aldan's vice president for marketing, said Friday workers try not to think too much about what they are producing.
- Many religious leaders nationwide continue to campaign for peace. One Roman Catholic bishop even urged U.S. troops to consider refusing to fight.
President Bush does enjoy support from many Jewish groups, who believe the use of force against Iraq is morally justified, and the Rev. Pat Robertson, who compares Saddam to Adolf Hitler.
But many of the nation's largest and most influential churches want to sway public opinion against war.