AMMAN, JORDAN, SEPT. 22 -- A U.S.-chartered Iraqi Airways jetliner landed in London today carrying 147 evacuees from Iraq and Kuwait, including about 55 American women and children taking what has been described as the last of the chartered "freedom flights."
A State Department official said that some 1,700 American citizens, mostly women and children, and foreign relatives, have been airlifted out of Baghdad on U.S.-chartered flights since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein announced on Aug. 28 that foreign women and children could leave. The State Department said that the flight was scheduled to fly to Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday.
Today's flight was the last one scheduled by the United States "pending a new surge of Americans who want to leave or who will be allowed to" by Iraq, said Robert Hilton, an official of the State Department's Persian Gulf task force in Washington.
All told, about 2,500 Americans are believed to have fled the two Persian Gulf countries by various means since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. There are still thought to be more than 1,000 Americans, virtually all of them men, either in hiding or being held hostage in both countries, with some of them forcibly taken to Iraqi military or industrial facilities to be human shields meant to deter any would-be U.S. air attack.
As this last group of evacuees arrived in the West, Jordan's King Hussein urged the United States today to avert a war in the Persian Gulf that would cause devastating destruction. Hussein, who has expressed some sympathy for Saddam, warned that a prolonged presence of U.S. troops and their allies in Saudi Arabia could have grave consequences.
In a live broadcast addressed to the American people on Cable News Network, the Jordanian monarch said he continued to recognize Kuwait and its ruling family, which fled to Saudi Arabia during the Iraqi invasion.
"The United States has a far greater responsibility on the moral plane now than it ever did in its history . . . to provide leadership and set an example," Hussein said in his appeal. "We must avert this war which would cause untold death, destruction and misery," he said, and warned against an open-ended deployment of foreign troops in the region.
In a related development, Saudi Arabia tonight announced that it was expelling from Riyadh most of the diplomats from Iraq, Jordan and Yemen for unspecified "blatant and flagrant activities . . . jeopardizing the peace and security of the kingdom," according to the Associated Press, quoting a Foreign Ministry communique.
Yemeni diplomats in the Saudi capital said all but four of their embassy's 50 staff members were being expelled, and high-ranking Jordanian officials said 20 personnel from their embassy were ordered to leave, the AP reported. It said the number of Iraqis being expelled was not immediately available. There is widespread public support for Saddam in Yemen and Jordan.
In his remarks, Hussein said he had no knowledge of the expulsions and made no mention of a Saudi decision to cut oil supplies to Jordan. "Right now I have no knowledge of any such Saudi action," he said.
In Washington, the finance ministers and central bank directors of the world's seven major industrialized nations held talks on the financial repercussions of the nearly two-month-old Persian Gulf crisis, which has resulted in a sharp rise in oil prices, and agreed that nations should attempt to control inflation and refrain from hasty interest rate cuts.
The officials said in a communique that they do not expect their economies to fall into recession next year but conceded that smaller countries are highly vulnerable to the repercussions of higher oil prices and called on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to step up efforts to help them.
In Saudi Arabia today, the first few thousand members of a 15,000-strong Egyptian infantry division landed at the western port of Yanbu on the Red Sea, to join about 2,000 Egyptian troops already in the northern part of the country. Unlike Jordan and Yemen, Egypt has strongly supported the international effort to isolate Iraq and force a pullout from Kuwait.
Syrian leader Hafez Assad, a long-time rival of Saddam who also has supported the U.S.-led effort against Iraq, arrived in Tehran today for a meeting with Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to discuss the gulf crisis as well as the fate of 13 Western hostages being held by pro-Iranian gunmen in Lebanon.
The Associated Press reported that Assad, who sided with Iran in its eight-year war with Iraq, tried to persuade Rafsanjani not to send food and medicine to Iraq in violation of the U.N. embargo. Rafsanjani voiced concern about the presence of U.S. and other Western military forces in the region, and both men agreed that security would best be provided by countries of the region, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Tehran, like Damascus, has denounced Iraq's conquest of Kuwait but has moved quickly to normalize ties with Iraq since Saddam accepted Tehran's terms to formally end their war last month in an effort to free up Iraqi troops deployed along the Iranian border. The rapprochment has raised concern in the West that Iran might violate the sanctions and resume trade with Baghdad.