TOPEKA, KAN., SEPT. 6 -- President Bush today quickly accepted an offer to appear on Iraq's state-run television network, and the White House called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to provide up to 15 minutes for an unedited message from Bush to the Iraqi people.
The White House was responding to an Iraqi offer to send a film crew from Iraq's state-controlled media to "interview" Bush and broadcast the message. White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Bush would tape his own message to the Iraqi people using White House equipment in the next few days and that the tape "will be provided to the Iraqi information minister."
The maneuvering over television messages came as Bush pledged that Saddam's "brazen blackmail" in holding Americans hostage will not alter his policies and that the United States will not compromise on the demand for an Iraqi troop withdrawal from Kuwait and for the restoration of Kuwait's exiled government.
"We seek a peaceful solution," Bush told a Florida audience later today, "but on one point let me be clear: There can be no compromise when it comes to sovereignty for Kuwait."
Iraq's withdrawal, he said, "must be complete. It must be immediate and it must be unconditional." The president added that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was an act of "naked aggression" that "strikes . . . at the very heart of the international order."
Today's long-distance exchange between the White House and Iraq's Information Ministry was the latest volley in a television-era crisis that has featured repeated appearances by Saddam on Western television attempting to justify the invasion of Kuwait and the holding of hostages as shields against attack.
Bush called the Iraqi offer a "real opportunity" as he flew here from Washington for a fund-raising event in which he warned that "hard choices remain" for the United States in the gulf. He appealed for continuing American support.
In Washington, Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Mashat said Iraqi television would show Bush's message "in its entirety without editing. Here, you edit; in Iraq, we do not edit."
An administration official, speaking before Mashat's statement, said the White House does not believe that Iraq will broadcast a Bush message but that the White House wanted to accept the offer with alacrity as part of what he called the "media-war part of the war." Bush said in late August that he was not upset with Saddam's access to the American media but wished he had the same opportunity in Iraq.
In his speech here for the reelection effort of Gov. Mike Hayden (R), Bush got a warm response when he said America "will not stand by while one country devours another unthreatening country. We will stand firm against the aggression now condemned around the world."
The effort, Bush acknowledged, "may not be easy, but it will always be right." Noting that Kansans are "courageously defending right on the sands and waters offshore of Saudi Arabia," the president said "there is nothing I want more than for our American servicemen and women to come home" and pledged they will "once we have completed a mission that does right by America and the world."
Wednesday night and before he left this morning for Kansas, Bush made another round of calls to world leaders on the gulf situation, officials said. Fitzwater said Bush called U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to thank him for his apparently unsuccessful efforts at diplomacy with Saddam.
He also spoke with Turkey's President Turgut Ozal, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President Francois Mitterrand, Fitzwater said. In a call to Syrian President Hafez Assad, Bush discussed "his perspective" on the events in the gulf, Fitzwater said.
In his speech here, Bush lauded the Soviet Union for its support in the gulf crisis and noted the "new levels of cooperation" that had been established between the two superpowers the past year. The gulf crisis, he said, "shows what this cooperation can achieve."
Bush said he would discuss the gulf situation with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev when they meet on Sunday in Helsinki, a session that is now likely to be the first of three between the two leaders in less than a month. They are also scheduled to meet in New York at the end of September during a United Nations conference on children and White House officials said today that Bush is likely to join Gorbachev in Berlin on Oct. 3 for German unification ceremonies.