BUENOS AIRES, DEC. 5 -- President Bush said today that he is "not optimistic" that direct talks between the United States and Iraq will lead to a resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis because "I see no evidence that Saddam Hussein is ready to comply fully without condition to the U.N. resolutions."
On the third day of his five-nation tour of Latin America, Bush continued to talk tough about the conditions Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must meet to resolve the crisis short of war, and he tried to put down speculation that a deal may be in the works.
"I don't view these talks as having anything to do about concessions that stop short of full implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions," Bush said at a joint news conference with Argentine President Carlos Menem.
Administration officials said U.S. intelligence reports suggest that Saddam is not receiving a blunt assessment of the international commitment to drive him out of Iraq -- by force if necessary -- and Bush sought to send those signals in advance of direct talks between the two nations.
"When naked aggression takes place, it's not a question of finding face for the aggressor," he said.
A senior administration official said Bush has given no private hints of a desire to conduct genuine negotiations with the Iraqis and is using his news conferences on his Latin American trip to reinforce that message to Saddam.
The official said Bush is struck by the way Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev handled his recent talks with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, in which he publicly dressed down the Iraqi, and is considering conducting his own meeting with Aziz later this month in Washington in as open a way as possible.
He said Bush wants to make clear to the rest of the world what message he is delivering to the Iraqis. His news conferences this week represent the "first steps" in that strategy, the official said.
Despite the speculation about possible compromises, the official said the pressure Bush is receiving from other nations, particularly Arab states, goes in the other direction. "The pressure that counts for him is the Arabs," the official said. "Their pressure is to make sure that he does not compromise and that he not make a deal," the official said.
Bush also sent messages to other allies recently to assure them that his purpose in proposing to send Baker to Baghdad is not to seek a compromise solution.