Iraq released 10 allied prisoners of war, including an American woman, to the International Red Cross, and the allies promised to release the first 300 Iraqi prisoners of war on Tuesday.

Kuwait's crown prince and head of government returned to their war-ravaged emirate and kissed the earth after seven months' exile while reports of increasingly violent unrest emerged from southeastern Iraq (see story below).France said President Bush will meet French President Francois Mitterrand in the Caribbean later this month for postwar talks, and there were indications that a U.N. Middle East peace conference, opposed by Israel, could be in the works.

U.S. television broadcasts from Baghdad showed the allied POWs appearing healthy, some smiling.

The freed prisoners, accompanied by a delegate from the International Committee of the Red Cross and a doctor, left Baghdad and arrived late Monday at the Jordanian air base of Ruwayshid, 170 miles east Amman, late Monday and were handed over to the ambassadors of their respective countries, the Red Cross said in Geneva.

The U.S. Central Command in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, said about 300 Iraqi POWs would be released Tuesday. The location of the release was not disclosed.

The Red Cross said the released allied POWs included three Britons, one Italian and six Americans - five men and Army Spec. Melissa Rath-bun-Nealy, who was the only U.S. servicewoman taken prisoner by Iraq during the Persian Gulf war.

Besides Rathbun-Nealy, the Red Cross identified the U.S. prisoners as Robert Wetzel, Lawrence Randolph Slade, David Lockett, Jeffrey Norton Zaun and Edward Thoral Griffith. The Britons were identified as Malcolm Graham Mac-Gown, John Peters and Ian Robert Pring and the Italian was identified as Maurizio Cocciolone.

If past practices are followed, the United States will fly the military personnel to Weisbaden, Germany, where there are medical facilities for physical and psychological evaluations and counseling.

President Bush is pleased with Iraq's release of 10 allied prisoners and it gives the United States "reason for optimism" that Baghdad will live up to its promises to comply with all United Nations resolutions, the White House said Monday.

In Paris, Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said that with the fighting stopped in the gulf, the United States intends to move quickly to resolve the Palestinian problem, which he called "the most difficult and most urgent" of all the issues in the region.

Dumas said Mitterrand's suggestion Sunday that the heads of state of the U.N. Security Council nations meet to regulate future arms sales to the Middle East could evolve into an overall peace conference on the region. The Security Council has never met at the head-of-state level.

Israel has opposed an international Middle East peace conference, saying the only way to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict is to conduct direct negotiations between the nations involved.

Sheikh Saad al Abdullah al Sabah, the crown prince and prime minister of Kuwait, returned to his capital, stepping from a plane at the Kuwait International Airport and kissing the tarmac. He fled into exile shortly after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.

Al Sabah is the highest-ranking Kuwaiti government official to return to the emirate. There was no immediate word when the emir, who has been living in exile in Taif, Saudi Arabia, would return.


(Additional information)

Names released

The International Committee of the Red Cross released the following names for the 10 allied prisoners of war freed by Iraq Monday. The ICRC declined to give their ranks.

Americans: Robert Wet-zel; Lawrence Randolph Slade; Melissa Anne Rath-bun-Nealy; David Lockett; Jeffrey Norton Zaun; Thoral Eduard Griffith.

British: Malcolm Graham MacGown; John Peters; Ian Robert Pring.

Italian: Maurizio Cocciolone.