BAGHDAD, IRAQ, SEPT. 8 -- Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued a defiant message tonight on the eve of a U.S.-Soviet summit conference, and his government said it would cut off chartered evacuation flights through Jordan for American women and children stranded in Kuwait.
In Washington, State Department officials said they expected that the charter flights would continue to destinations other than Amman, the Jordanian capital, following the arrival today in Amman of a chartered Iraqi Airlines plane that carried 140 Americans from Kuwait via Baghdad.
Saddam's open message to President Bush and his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, took the form of a blunt challenge, especially to Gorbachev. Saddam warned Gorbachev that the Soviet Union was losing influence as a superpower in relation to the United States by its actions in the Persian Gulf crisis.
But Saddam's statement also seemed to betray concern that the world's two most powerful nations, after decades of vying for influence, would agree to work together to frustrate Iraq's plans in the gulf.
"History is our witness," he declared in a message read on Iraqi television and radio. "Foreign interventions complicate things. They do not solve them."
It was a measure of the shift in the Middle East landscape that Saddam addressed his warnings to the Soviet Union and the United States at the same time. Before U.S.-Soviet relations improved during the end of the last decade, most Middle Eastern conflicts were judged for their effect on the East-West rivalry, and Washington and Moscow most often backed opposing sides with arms and diplomacy. Saddam appeared to be goading Gorbachev toward a return to that era, suggesting Moscow's policy in the Persian Gulf is in effect a retreat before U.S. power in global affairs.
"He who represents the Soviet Union should remember the suspicion and doubt that have been on the minds of all world politicians about the status of the Soviet Union as a superpower at a time when the United States of America begins to assume the role of sole power in the world," he declared.
The Iraqi order suspending evacuation flights through Jordan came as a surprise to U.S. diplomats in Baghdad, who had hoped that the Iraqi Airways charters would operate on a daily basis until the estimated 1,000 U.S. women and children remaining in Kuwait are all safely home.
The first such flight carried about 165 Americans, most of them women and children, from Kuwait through Baghdad to Amman on Friday, and the second left Kuwait today. After a prolonged stop in Baghdad, the Iraqi Airways Boeing 707 was allowed to proceed to Amman carrying 137 U.S. women and children, three U.S. men of Arab origin and two Frenchmen, according to a count made available in Amman after the plane's arrival late tonight.
Officials said the passengers, along with the Americans who arrived on Friday's flight, were to board a U.S. aircraft for an overnight flight to Frankfurt, West Germany, and on to Charleston, S.C.
In announcing the suspension of flights, Iraq suggested that Amman's Alia International Airport had become too crowded to handle such flights any longer. The airport has had to handle thousands of Egyptian, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers fleeing Kuwait since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion. But an airport spokesman told reporters that the Amman facility could continue to handle the mercy flights without a problem.
Iraq may have insisted on ending flights to Jordan in the hopes that Western nations would allow the flights to go to major European cities, thereby giving the impression that a U.N. Security Council trade embargo -- which includes airline connections -- is being weakened.
About 1,000 American men and another 1,000 women and children remain in Kuwait, according to State Department figures. Many have been forced forced to remain in hiding to avoid being taken into custody by Iraqi troops.