BAGHDAD, IRAQ, NOV. 9 -- Iraq's foreign minister scoffed today at President Bush's decision to send 200,000 more troops to the Persian Gulf region, saying the move "is not going to scare us."

Speaking at Baghdad's airport, where more than 170 Western hostages flew to freedom in Frankfurt, Germany, Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said: "The decision of Mr. Bush is . . . not going to help to find a peaceful solution to the region. Instead of sending more troops, he should send diplomats and send people who could understand the situation in the region better than now, and try to open peace talks with the leaders of the region."

Bush announced the new troop deployment Thursday in Washington and said it was aimed at giving the United States a credible offensive force in the region. The United States, which along with other Western and Arab nations sent ground, air and land forces to the gulf region after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, currently has more than 200,000 troops in the region.

Although Bush's move was widely seen as an effort to step up pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait in the face of a multinational military force capable of defeating his 450,000-man army, Aziz said the new deployment will cause no alarm in Baghdad.

"If {Bush} wants to scare Iraq, I think he had enough troops, and he might have realized that this additional number is not going to scare us," the foreign minister said.

The release of the Westerners held at strategic sites in Iraq as insurance against Western attack came as former West German chancellor Willy Brandt concluded a controversial four-day visit to the Iraqi capital that included two long meetings with Saddam. Most of those who left Baghdad on the Lufthansa Airlines jet were Germans, but included in the group were three Americans, one of whom had been shot in the arm in Kuwait by Iraqi troops two months ago.

The shooting victim, Miles Hoffman, 33, of Columbus, Ga., wore a cast on his left arm. Hoffman, who Iraqi officials claim was shot accidentally as he was trying to escape arrest, has a fractured arm that will require a bone graft.

Hoffman refused to answer reporters' questions, but another American former hostage, Don Swanke, 66, of Westlake Village, Calif., said he and his wife, Brenda, who also was released, were not mistreated by their Iraqi captors. "Except for freedom, we were treated very well," said Swanke, who was held with his wife in northern Iraq and later moved to several undisclosed installations.

He joked that his hosts had provided him and his wife with "everything we requested, within reason, except beer and exit visas." Swanke did not talk about the condition of other hostages, but said "our sites by our standards are not what we'd call adequate, but by Iraqi standards it was probably top of the line."

In addition to the Americans, the jet carried 136 German ex-hostages, 17 Italians, 11 Dutch, 10 Canadians, 3 Belgians, several Britons, and one each from Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Luxembourg, according to officials who conceded there was confusion about the numbers. About 20 Western women and children who earlier had refused to leave Iraq also were on the plane.

Several hundred people, mostly relatives of the released Germans, met the plane tonight in Frankfurt, Washington Post correspondent Marc Fisher reported. Many carried signs thanking Brandt for his efforts in gaining the hostages' release and hailing him as a peacemaker.

Brandt, whose visit to Baghdad was the latest in a series of trips by former world leaders seeking the release of hostages, praised Saddam before leaving but refused to say he had played a peacemaking role. He was, he said, "offering one's experience, not mixing {it} up with the responsibility of government."

Brandt would not speak in Frankfurt about his meetings with Saddam.

Officials in the United States and other nations allied against Iraq have been critical of the visits by Brandt, former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, former British prime minister Edward Heath and others, saying they encourage Saddam's efforts to split the alliance. Today two more former prime ministers, Anker Joergensen of Denmark and David Lange of New Zealand, arrived in Amman, Jordan, en route to Baghdad, Reuter reported.