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Iraq Time Line

 

Iraq Accepts All Cease-Fire Terms

By Steve Coll and Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, March 4, 1991; Page A01

Iraq yesterday formally accepted all of the U.S.-led coalition's conditions for a permanent cease-fire in the Persian Gulf War and may soon release some prisoners of war, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf announced after a historic two-hour meeting with seven Iraqi generals at an airfield in Iraq ringed by U.S. troops.

"I am very happy to tell you that we agreed on all matters," Schwarzkopf said after the meeting in the desert at Safwan, Iraq. "We have made a major step forward in the cause of peace."

In New York, the Iraqi ambassador, Abdul Amir Anbari, said he believed 10 POWs, including five American men and one American woman, may already have been released. Officials in Washington said last night they were unaware of any release taking place and had been informed by the ambassador only that it was "planned."

The state-run Baghdad radio announced it had accepted U.N. Resolution 686, which the U.N. Security Council passed 11 to 1 Saturday night with three abstentions. The resolution set terms similar to those discussed by the generals in Safwan and demanded that Iraq "accept liability under international law" for damages incurred by Kuwait during the seven-month Iraqi occupation. The acceptance was relayed to the United Nations in a letter from Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.

It was not clear from the Safwan talks when a formal cease-fire agreement would be signed, but acceptance of the U.N. resolution fulfilled what Schwarzkopf described as the next step in the peace process.

Schwarzkopf and other allied generals who attended the meeting indicated that the truce could be completed within days. When that happens, Schwarzkopf said, U.S. and allied forces would withdraw from occupied Iraqi territory and prisoner of war exchanges would begin under the supervision of the International Red Cross.

Despite what appeared to be official calm in Baghdad, news reports and refugee accounts from southeastern Iraq suggested there was some turmoil and upheaval in the region, as crowds reportedly took to the streets in widespread disorder and rallies against President Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party government.

A small band of anti-Saddam rebels interviewed by Reuter on the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border claimed to have seized control of Basra in the name of Islamic revolutionary forces and were trying to get to Kuwait with a written request for allied forces to help them.

In Riyadh, Marine Brig. Gen. Richard I. Neal said the Iraqi delegation to the cease-fire meeting had been concerned about getting through Basra on its way to the talks: "I don't think they were worried too much about their safety but just {about} the chaos and upheaval that's going on within the city."

Other news reports from Baghdad yesterday said soldiers returning from the front were telling bitter tales of round-the-clock allied bombing, food shortages and mass graves for dead comrades. The reports said many troops drove home in armored vehicles stripped of their weapons by allied forces. Brigades Move South

Military officials in Riyadh said Iraq has withdrawn two mechanized brigades from the Turkish border and moved them south to defend Baghdad. The officials said the brigades were still more than 60 miles north of the Iraqi capital.

The Indian newspaper Sunday Observer reported that Saddam had sought asylum in India but that the government had refused two secret overtures. In London, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's spokesman, prompted by a question on Independent Television News concerning Saddam's whereabouts, said the Iraqi president would not "be given a positive response" if he asked for asylum in the Soviet Union.

White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," said the United States would not be "uncomfortable" if Saddam took asylum in another country. The Iraqis, he predicted, "are going to be very upset" once the magnitude of their military defeat becomes apparent.

In Baghdad, however, Iraqi television released a 45-second videotape of a smiling Saddam meeting with three aides to discuss restoration of services in the bomb-damaged Iraqi capital. Baghdad radio said he had chaired a meeting of the five-man ruling body that "discussed the latest political developments," Knight-Ridder reported. Iraqi news reports are subject to tight censorship.

With the battlefield peace process underway, Secretary of State James A. Baker III readied for a Middle East trip this week. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Baker said he favored a "two-track" approach aimed at finding a way for Arab states to make peace with Israel and finding a way for Israelis and Palestinians to begin a dialogue.

In Riyadh, Neal told reporters that "isolated instances" of cease-fire violations continued in the war zone, and a military spokesman said Army helicopter pilot Maj. Marie T. Rossi, 32, of Oradell, N.J., one of the first female soldiers sent into Iraq, died when her Chinook cargo helicopter crashed in northern Saudi Arabia. Three others aboard the helicopter also were killed. Casualty figures released by the Pentagon showed 95 Americans killed in action, but that did not include the four in the Chinook crash.

Neal said U.S. Navy helicopters, with the help of Kuwaiti forces, early yesterday morning occupied Failaka Island off the coast of Kuwait, taking 1,405 prisoners, including a brigadier general. He said allied figures showed 63,400 prisoners in coalition hands. Allied sources say the coalition holds more than 80,000 prisoners. Kuwaiti Flag Raised

He said the helicopter forces, backed up by gunships and fixed-wing warplanes, landed without incident after instructing the Iraqis, who had been signaling that they wanted to surrender, to gather in an open space. With the help of a Kuwaiti commander, coalition forces took the Iraqis prisoner and raised the Kuwaiti flag.

But, he cautioned, "we have not swept the island" and "can't say with full confidence that we now have Failaka Island under control. I can tell you that there was no action against our forces while we went in and got" the prisoners.

Neal said 800 prisoners were receiving medical treatment at coalition facilities, 80 percent of them suffering from wounds received in action. He said two prisoners had died under treatment, both from malnutrition and dehydration.

Coalition forces fanning out across the battlefield have been collecting Iraqi wounded for several days and have sharply criticized as substandard Iraq's care for its troops.

In mopping-up operations in Kuwait and southern Iraq, Neal said, the 82nd Airborne Division seized 20 combat aircraft -- five Mirage F-1s, six MiG-21s, one SU-22 and eight helicopters, including MI-8 Hips and MI-6 Hinds -- at the abandoned Talil air base in Iraq. The Army's 3rd Armored Division captured three antiaircraft guns, three multiple rocket launchers and several tanks, and took 53 Iraqis prisoner, he said.

In all, he added, coalition forces have either captured or destroyed 3,300 of Iraq's 4,200 tanks, plus 2,100 armored vehicles and 2,200 artillery pieces. Some of the operable equipment could be used by partners in the coalition; the rest will be demolished, Neal said.

In Kuwait City, Kuwaiti army units imposed martial law in the suburbs of the capital and began disarming vigilantes who picked up hundreds of weapons left behind by departing Iraqi soldiers last week. Officials said they were worried about reprisals against the 300,000-strong Palestinian community because the Palestinian leadership sided with Iraq during the war.

In Dubai, Kuwaiti oil officials said all three of the country's refineries had been heavily damaged by the Iraqis and all 950 wellheads had been either set afire or booby trapped. The officials said the wells could not be approached until mines were cleared from the surrounding desert.

In all, Kuwait Ambassador Nasir Sabah said in Washington, Kuwait was losing 1 million barrels of oil per day in the fires: "It's going to take about six months before we can get the oil exports flowing again."

By the account of Schwarzkopf and other allied generals, yesterday's talks, held in a tent beside a little-used runway about eight miles north of Kuwait's border with Iraq, marked the beginning of a formal end to the Persian Gulf War, which erupted with massive allied air strikes Jan. 17. Iraqis Arrive by Road

Iraq's seven-member delegation of military commanders arrived by road at an allied checkpoint several miles from the airfield and was transported to the runway by U.S. tanks and armored personnel carriers at 11:30 a.m. local time. The delegation was led by Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, operations chief at the Iraqi Defense Ministry, and seconded by Lt. Gen. Salah Abud Mahmud, commander of the Iraqi army's III Corps.

The Iraqi commanders offered no comment after their discussions with Schwarzkopf and Saudi Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, except to say that there would be peace in the region "if it is God's will."

During nearly two hours of talks observed by allied generals from Britain, France, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria and other coalition partners, the two sides reached agreements on procedures for avoiding accidental engagements between allied and Iraqi forces, for disclosing the location of Iraqi-laid minefields in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, and for exchanging information about soldiers missing in action, according to Schwarzkopf and other allied generals.

Iraq apparently disclosed specific information at the meeting about the number of allied prisoners of war who have died in captivity, but Schwarzkopf and others refused to reveal what the Iraqis said.

Discussions also reportedly centered on detailed plans for a withdrawal of allied forces from Iraqi territory once a formal cease-fire is signed, including establishment of "security zones" to prevent any future massing of Iraqi forces on Iraq's borders with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, military officers said.

Saudi Lt. Gen. Sultan, commander of joint Arab forces in the Kuwaiti theater of operations, said that one provision of the tentative agreement about territory and borders required that Saudi Arabia's border with Iraq to the west of the war zone be immediately and explicitly recognized by both sides. Sultan declined to elaborate.

Schwarzkopf described the tone of the discussions as "very frank, very candid and very constructive," and he praised the Iraqi delegation for its "positive attitude" in accepting the allied conditions for a permanent cease-fire.

The talks, held across a rectangular table in a military-issue olive-colored tent, "started off cool, and it never really got any warmer," according to Lt. Gen. Peter de la Billiere, commander of British forces in the Middle East, who attended the meeting as one of 40 allied observers. The Iraqi generals, he said, "were cool but determined to make progress."

There was no discussion among the opposing generals about the conduct of the six-week war nor any exchanges of soldierly camaraderie, de la Billiere said. Instead, he reported, the talks "all focused on the problems that needed to be resolved." Asked whether the Iraqi commanders had offered any information about Saddam's grip on power, de la Billiere said the talks had provided "no indication one way or the other. 'There Was No Argument'

"I would describe the Iraqis as pushing to see this resolved as quickly as possible and agreeing to everything they needed to," he said. "There was no argument."

Arrangements have been made for a second meeting of allied and Iraqi military commanders, if necessary, to settle details of yesterday's agreements, but Schwarzkopf said that "based upon the very positive nature of the meeting we had today, I would not anticipate that that would happen."

Coll reported from Safwan, Iraq, Gugliotta from Washington. Staff writer Stephen C. Fehr in Washington contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1991 The Washington Post

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