Anti-Iraq allies should call a summit to discuss long-term Middle East peace plans - including solving Israel-Palestine conflicts, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said Wednesday.
That came after a week of living dangerously among Arab and Israeli leaders, including seeing a Scud missile attack in Israel and an accident in Egypt that killed two of his security guards.During his stay, Owens - a member of the House foreign affairs and intelligence committees - also bluntly criticized his friend King Hussein of Jordan in a "tense" meeting for giving speeches supporting Iraq.
And after his week of visits, Owens said - and repeated to a national TV audience on CNN's "Crossfire" - that he is sure leaders in Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia all want Saddam Hussein dead, and he believes they want the United States to start a land war and carry it to Baghdad to get Saddam.
But Owens said he feels that if Saddam accepts the current Soviet proposal to end the war, he hopes that President Bush will accept it also. "I don't see how he couldn't as long as it meets our goals of an unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait."
About prospects for long-term peace in the Middle East, Owens said the coalition now united against Iraq should use its ties to seek long-term peace by calling a summit.
"It could discuss not only matters relating to the war but also the (Israel-Palestine) peace process," Owens said.
Saddam has called for such an international conference on the Palestine-Israel question as a condition for his withdrawal from Kuwait. But Owens said calling the summit he proposes would not reward Saddam. "It continues the peace process that has been interrupted by the war."
Owens sees some complicating factors for Israel-Palestine peace because of the war.
"The Palestinians have lost a lot of credibility because of the stupidity of (Palestine Liberation Organization leader) Yassir Arafat in supporting Saddam Hussein," he said.
Also, he said the conservative Israeli Likud Party - which has been reluctant to negotiate with Palestinians - led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has tremendous prestige internationally now because it accepted international pleas not to retaliate against Iraq for Scud missile attacks.
Owens said a central figure in long-term peace because of his country's geographic location and numerous Palestinian refugees is Jordan's King Hussein, whom Owens has long described as a personal friend.
They had a four-hour dinner meeting Sunday. Owens said the first hour was tense as he delivered a message to the king, which he would not detail but said criticized Hussein's speeches supportive of Iraq.
"He is in a very difficult position, and has dodged many bullets - literally and figuratively in his country," Owens said.
"He should have been a player on our side, or at least been neutral. But his rhetoric in recent weeks has tilted toward Iraq. At least he hasn't praised Saddam Hussein - he just praised the resolve of the Iraqi people."
Owens said most of the dinner was pleasant, and he noticed the king was wearing the Utah cowboy boots that Owens gave him two years ago.
About the Soviet peace proposal, Owens said he doesn't have details about it yet. "But if it calls for an unconditional withdrawal with underlying promises by the Soviets for best efforts toward (the Israel-Palestine) peace process, it would be acceptable."
It would also leave Saddam in power, which many allies fear would only lead to a future war. In fact, Owens said, "Egypt and Israel and Saudi Arabia - they would like him dead. They would like him a finished issue."
But Owens said, "He (Saddam) has been enormously hurt already. His withdrawal wouldn't include the ability to take his equipment with him. We have destroyed his ability for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and destroyed half his tanks.
"He could have withdrawn on Jan. 15 and declared victory. There's no way now," Owens said.
In his trip, Owens saw a Scud attack in Israel as his party traveled in a van.
In Egypt, a traffic accident claimed the lives of two of his security guards. He said they were in a second car behind his vehicle traveling 80 miles an hour when the car went out of control and into a canal. Four people in the car survived.
"We tried to help," Owens said. "But those cars are so heavily armored we couldn't open the doors or even break the windows." He added he is sure the incident was merely an accident and in no way related to sabotage.