U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said Monday he lost hope for peace in the Persian Gulf after talking with Sad-dam Hussein, and Iraq's lawmakers pledged to support Sad-dam and the Palestinian struggle with their blood.
"Unfortunately, I don't see any more reasons to be optimistic. I don't see any reason to have real hope," the secretary-general said after meeting with President Francois Mitterrand in Paris on Monday. His comment came on the eve of the U.N. deadline authorizing force to oust Iraq from Kuwait.Perez de Cuellar's 2 1/2-hour meeting with Saddam in Baghdad on Sunday had been considered the last best chance to avoid an attack on Iraqi forces by the U.S.-led multinational force deployed in the gulf.
President Bush on Sunday called Iraq's apparent intention to keep troops in Kuwait beyond the Tuesday midnight EST withdrawal deadline "a tremendous mistake." In Baghdad, Saddam said any "last-minute initiatives" for peace were up to the United States.
Following a 45-minute meeting with Mitterrand in Paris, Perez de Cuellar said: "The hope that I had is already gone. I'm a diplomat, but as you can see I'm going to be honest and direct."
The U.N. chief also met with Foreign Minister Jacques Poos of Luxembourg, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Community, and other officials before leaving for New York to report to the Security Council.
Poos said "there is still a chance for peace, but it is diminishing minute by minute."
Across the world, prayers and anti-war protests grew more passionate. In the nations that line the gulf, residents stocked up on provisions and sealed windows and doors to protect against poison gas attacks. Some people sought gas masks; others hunted for a flight out.In Baghdad, members of Iraq's National Assembly shouted that they were willing to back Saddam "with our blood, our souls, we are ready to sacrifice for Saddam." At Saddam's urging, the body had voted in August to absorb Kuwait and last month approved the release all foreign hostages.
The 250-member assembly, which rarely if ever rejects Saddam's proposals, voted unanimously to give him full authority to handle the gulf crisis.
The assembly speaker, Saadi Mehdi Saleh, called Saddam "the knight of the Arab nation" and said the nation was behind him in his showdown with "U.S. imperialism, Zionism and Arab stooges."
"We declare here and now that we are ready to sacrifice everything for the cause of Palestine. Palestine should be liberated and rights of Palestinians restored," he said. Iraq has repeatedly tried to link solutions to the gulf crisis and the Palestinian problem, an approach rejected by the United States.
For months, Saddam has suggested that a peaceful settlement in the gulf could be linked to a Middle East peace conference that addresses the Palestinians' demands for an independent state on Israeli-occupied land.
The French and other European members of the anti-Iraq coalition favor allowing Saddam to partially save face by linking an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait with a peace conference. Bush has rejected such a link - as well as urgings from some quarters to consider allowing sanctions more time.
Perez de Cuellar said he did not bring up the issue of a Middle East conference in his talks with Saddam.
He said the Iraqi leader "never mentioned the word withdrawal, or if he mentioned the word, it was not in the sense of being prepared to withdraw."
White House officials said Bush expected to hear from Perez de Cuel-lar by telephone later Monday.