LAJES, THE AZORES, AUG. 8 -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III said today that the United States is stepping up contacts with Iraq's enemies in the Arab world in an effort to isolate President Saddam Hussein further and prevent breaks in the international boycott of Iraq.
Baker said he is dispatching his top Middle East diplomat to Syria to ask Damascus not to open a long-closed Iraqi oil pipeline that runs through Syria and to show a new U.S. openness toward what is one of Iraq's major adversaries.
Baker announced that Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs John H. Kelly would fly to Syria to "coordinate" with the Syrians the "collective efforts" to isolate Iraq in the wake of last week's invasion of Kuwait. Syria closed an Iraqi oil pipeline at the time of the Iran-Iraq war, and the Kelly mission is in part an effort to prevent Syria from reopening the line to circumvent the global boycott.
Baker spoke to reporters as he flew to Turkey on a mission to reassure the Turkish leadership of support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for its decision to close an Iraqi pipeline.
Baker said the administration also has had frequent contacts, through intermediaries, with Iran -- another bitter enemy of Iraq.
Asked whether Iran was cooperating with the international boycott and condemnation of Iraq led by the United States, a senior official said, "The history there is well known to everyone, and we know from our conversation with other Arab governments that Iran has expressed some concern about what has happened between Iraq and Kuwait."
Both Syria and Iran remain on the list of nations that the United States regards as sponsors of terrorism. Baker's announcement that both were being considered in the gulf crisis diplomacy was an indication of how far the United States is willing to go to isolate and punish Iraq. Baker said it remains up to Saudi Arabia to decide whether Iran and Syria should join any multinational military force that might be required to enforce the United Nations Security Council embargo against Iraq.
"The mood in Arab countries is moving more toward condemnation of Iraqi aggression than it is in the other direction," Baker said.
The senior official also told reporters that the administration has had "extended discussions" with the government of Yemen, which supports Iraq, including a call from President Bush to Yemen's president, Ali Abdallah Salih. There have been reports in recent days that Yemen is sheltering Iraqi warplanes. A senior official said of Yemen, "I can't predict they are going to cease their accommodationist posture, but we have had extended conversations with them." The official said Yemen "is one of the countries that perhaps you ought to at least look at in determining the way the mood is moving in Arab countries."
Baker's remarks came after Bush announced plans in Washington to send American forces to Saudi Arabia to defend it against potential Iraqi aggression. Baker said Kelly also would visit Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with Saudi officials as well as the exiled leaders of Kuwait.
Questioned about the composition of a multinational force to support the U.N. sanctions, Baker said Britain has volunteered to commit air and naval forces, and France and the Soviet Union are dispatching ships to the region. Asked if Egypt would join, Baker said President Hosni Mubarak has not announced any commitment, but a planned Arab summit meeting might result in one. "We ought to wait and see what the results of the Arab summit are," he said.
The senior official said that Baker is looking for ways to mitigate the cost to Turkey of shutting down the Iraqi pipeline. The pipeline provides Turkey with revenue in addition to oil. The official said an effort is underway to free resources belonging to the "legitimate government" of Kuwait -- the exiled royal family -- to pay Turkey. "I think. . . a way can be found to assure the Turks they are not going to suffer out-of-pocket financial loss as a consequence of what they might do," the official said, adding that he did not mean money would come from American taxpayers.
Baker refused to say if he is carrying a specific request to Turkey, which is a member of NATO, for use of its military facilities. But he praised Turkish cooperation with the U.N. sanctions against Iraq and added, "They are strategically located, and it is important that we make it clear to them that they will continue to enjoy our strong support and they will continue to enjoy the collective support that is afforded to each and every member of the NATO alliance."