President Saddam Hussein repeated last night that Iraq would not withdraw from Kuwait without a comprehensive solution of Middle East issues.
In an interview in Baghdad with Cable News Network, Saddam said that in addition to the presence of U.S. troops in the region, the "two fundamental questions" were Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the gap between rich and poor Arab states. In an hour-long edited version of the two-hour interview, Saddam suggested that an international conference be held to reach "a package deal for all the issues of the region."
While Saddam did not repeat precisely the conditions he has set in the past for a settlement of the crisis -- for example, he did not explicitly repeat his call for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon -- there appeared to be no shift in his position.
The Iraqi leader disputed suggestions that his dialogue with the Soviet Union was stagnant, saying his two rounds of talks this month with Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov had been "wide-ranging, deep and very useful." He did not specify what advances had been made in the talks, however.
Asked whether the crisis was moving toward war, Saddam said that Israel and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher are trying to push President Bush "into that dangerous and grave quagmire." Later, Saddam said the United States had pushed Japan and its European allies into taking a tough stance toward Iraq in the United Nations.