As the allies marshaled land, sea and air forces for a possible all-out assault on Iraqi forces, President Bush rejected Tuesday a Soviet plan for ending the Persian Gulf war.
The Soviets said it was not up to Bush to accept or reject the peace plan because it was offered to Iraq.There was no pause in the air war Tuesday, and concern grew over Iraqi mines in the northern gulf after it was disclosed that a mine blast had disabled a billion-dollar warship, the biggest U.S. materiel loss of the war.
Iraq launched another missile at Israel Tuesday night, but Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the chief army spokesman, said there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. It was Iraq's first missile attack since Saturday. Previous Scud missiles attacks on the Jewish state have killed two people and wounded 230.
The U.S. military reported Tuesday that another American warplane was lost in combat. Marine Brig. Gen. Richard Neal said the fate of the pilot of the A-10 attack plane was not known.
Baghdad came under repeated bombardment overnight, the heaviest onslaught in several days, AP correspondent John Rice reported from the Iraqi capital. Black clouds of smoke drifted over the city, and streaks of red-and-white anti-aircraft fire illuminated the night sky, he said.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz Tuesday took the Soviet peace plan home to Baghdad from Moscow, where Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev had offered the proposal Monday. The Soviet plan is said to include a guarantee that Saddam Hussein can stay in power if he pulls his armies out of Kuwait now.
Iraq offered Friday to withdraw from Kuwait, but the offer was rejected by the allies because of conditions attached.
Bush, at a picture-taking session in the White House Tuesday, appeared to reject the Soviet peace proposal.
"As far as I'm concerned, there are no negotiations, no concessions," the president said, adding he had conveyed his opinions of the plan to Gorbachev.
Bush noted Gorbachev had asked him to keep details of the plan confidential and said, "I'm going to do that.
"I will respect that request in the interests of thoroughly exploring the initiative," Bush said. "But, very candidly . . . while expressing appreciation for his sending it to us, it falls well short of what would be required."
In Washington, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney told U.S. lawmakers that any pause in the desert war would be hazardous to American lives.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh said in Moscow it was not up to Bush to reject the Kremlin peace initiative.
"That plan was addressed to the Iraqi leadership, so he rejected the plan that did not belong to him," Bessmertnykh said.
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Sabah al-Ahmed was quoted as saying his government will not negotiate with Iraq even if Saddam's forces withdraw.
An Iraqi military communique broadcast by Baghdad radio said allied air raids hit 65 civilian targets and 179 military targets in the past 24 hours. It said the "barbaric raids" had not demoralized the Iraqi public.
In the war zone, allied forces worked on land, sea and air to strip Iraqi forces of the will and the means to fight.
In northern Saudi Arabia, U.S. troops repositioned themselves, seeking to keep the Iraqis guessing. Along the border, allied reconnaissance teams stole across 12-foot protective berms into the no-man's-land between opposing lines.
In the treacherous waters of the northern Persian Gulf, allied minesweepers intensified efforts to find and explode mines.
The missile cruiser USS Princeton, one of two U.S. warships to sustain mine damage Monday, was sent to a gulf port for damage assessment although U.S. military officials said it was already clear the ship was badly damaged.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 9,600-ton ship suffered cracks in its superstructure and other damage in the blast, which lifted it partly out of the water. Three crewmen were hurt.
The other U.S. vessel damaged Monday was the USS Tripoli, a helicopter assault carrier serving as flagship for the newly mounted mine-clearing operation. It remained on station Tuesday after the crew patched a hole in its hull, military officials said.
The Tripoli apparently hit a contact mine. The Princeton appeared to have set off an "influence mine," which can be triggered by the noise, water pressure or the magnetic "signature" of a ship approaching or passing overhead, military officials said.
The explosions renewed concerns that Iraq has thickly seeded the coastal waters with mines, which could imperil any plans for an amphibious landing.
Military sources said allied minesweeping vessels, built mainly of wood or plastic to avoid setting off magnetic mines, were zeroing in on areas that might be important in such an assault.
Iraq's losses reportedly were mounting. A senior Iraqi official was quoted by an Iranian newspaper Tuesday as saying more than 20,000 Iraqis were killed and 60,000 wounded in the war's first four weeks.
Iraq's deputy prime minister, Saadoun Hammadi, reported those figures to Iranian officials, the Jomhuri Islami newspaper said. It did not provide a breakdown of civilian and military deaths.