AMMAN, JORDAN, NOV. 27 -- Three American and 12 British hostages freed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein arrived in Jordan today with German nationals who had come out of hiding in Kuwait.
But Iraqi authorities also sent 67 hostages to undisclosed locations in Iraq, possibly to replace hostages who have been freed in small groups during the last several weeks, said a Western diplomat in Baghdad quoted by the Reuter news agency. Iraq had brought the 67 to Baghdad Sunday from Kuwait, where they had been held at potential military targets.
In shifting the 67, "the Iraqis are maybe making a distinction between Kuwait and Iraq," a Western diplomat told Reuter. "They could be making a point -- 'Don't shoot at Iraq,' " the diplomat said. Another envoy said Iraq appears to be clearing its Western hostages out of Kuwait.
Saddam freed the three Americans after their wives, children and siblings traveled to Baghdad to seek their release. His gesture was seen as likely to encourage relatives of other hostages to make similar trips during the holiday season.
John Stevenson, of Panama City, Fla., arrived with his brothers, William and James, both of Florida, and his twin sister, Mary Trundy, from Brockton, Mass. He criticized the U.S. push for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a military offensive to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
"My family brought me out, by the way. My government did not bring me out," Stevenson said. With its policy, he said, the United States is "trying to kill the hostages. . . . Their morale is already bad enough, so this just deepens it. With this war threat they are mentally deteriorating each of us by the hour."
Asked to explain, he said, "When . . . all you hear is war, war, war and you are at a strategic site, just think about it. That's the answer."
Clyde Jesse, from Buffalo Grove, Ill., said, "You've got to sit down and talk instead of dropping bombs" to resolve the gulf crisis. Jesse, who walked from the plane on crutches and wearing a cervical collar because of a bad spinal disk, was accompanied by his wife, Honey, who added: "If the men can't do it, send the women. We use our hearts and not our heads."
Fred Harrington, 59, of Bellevue, Wash., said he was "at the wrong place at the wrong time and became a victim of circumstance for four months."
As the three Americans arrived here, Iraq announced that an unspecified number of American hostages would be freed to leave Iraq with former boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who met Saddam today.
The freed hostages arrived with Uwe Wruck and Charlie Stubbe, two Germans who had remained in hiding in Kuwait until Saddam's decision this month to permit all Germans to go free. The two said they had not gone outside in daylight for 2 1/2 months and never answered the door when Iraqi soldiers came seeking water and food.
"We were playing dead," Wruck said. Some foreigners were "sleeping on rooftops and behind watertanks" to dodge Iraqi soldiers, he said.
"If you are in hiding you have to buy food on the black market and people were short of money after 3 1/2 months," he said, adding that foreigners in hiding started selling their possessions to afford food. "Our cars were stolen one month ago but the support of the local population was very good."
The Germans said hostages in hiding remained in contact by telephone. Diplomats and residents trapped at the U.S. Embassy were sick of tuna and spaghetti but were in high spirits, they said.
They said foreigners in Kuwait are impatient for an end to the crisis. "Any solution is better than no solution," although "people are scared" of the possibility of war, Wruck said. Stubbe added that fear of chemical warfare led them to seal their windows and their sink.
Staff Writer Rick Atkinson reported from Washington:
The Pentagon said Tuesday that Iraq has added 20,000 troops to the Kuwait "theater of operations," which brings the Iraqi force to 450,000. It has added 100 tanks and 200 artillery weapons for a total of 3,600 tanks and 2,400 artillery pieces in the theater, which includes occupied Kuwait and much of southern Iraq, the Pentagon said.
The additional Iraqi forces, the first disclosed by the Defense Department since late September, are part of "a general effort on their part to shore up their defensive lines," Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said. Another defense official said the new troop figure represents a recalculation by U.S. intelligence analysts studying satellite photos and some moves made by the new Iraqi military chief of staff, Gen. Hussein Rashid Wendawi.
The additional forces, Williams said, are not believed to be part of the 250,000-man contingent that Saddam has vowed to send south in response to the U.S. decision this month to dispatch 200,000 more troops to the region.