AZIZ: 'I Made It Clear That We Have Not Made Miscalculations'

When I arrived last night in Geneva, I said that I have come with open-mindedness, and that was my intention. And I also came in good faith. The most important fact about these talks I would like to draw your attention to is that they are taking place after five months of the occurrence of the latest events in the gulf.

If we had an earlier opportunity, several months ago, I told the secretary that we might have been able to remove a lot of misunderstandings between us -- there was a chance, or there is a chance, for that. Because he spoke at length about his government's assumptions of miscalculations by Iraq -- and when I came to that point, I made it clear to him that we have not made miscalculations. We are very well aware of the situation. We have been well aware of the situation from the very beginning. We know what the deployment of your forces in the region mean; we know what the resolutions you imposed on the Security Council mean; and we know all the facts about the situation -- the political facts, the military facts . . . so talking about miscalculation is incorrect.

. . . . It was a serious meeting. We both listened to each other very carefully. We both gave each other enough time to explain the views we wanted to explain -- to convey the information we wanted to convey. From this aspect . . . I am satisfied. But we had grave, or big differences about the issues we addressed. Mr. Baker reiterated the very well-known American position. He is interested in one question only -- the situation in the gulf, and the Security Council resolutions about that situation. I told him very clearly . . . that what is at stake in our region is peace, security and stability. What's at stake is the fate of the whole region, that region which has been suffering from wars, instabilities, hardships, for several decades.

If you are ready to bring peace to the region -- comprehensive, lasting, just peace to the whole region of the Middle East -- we are ready to cooperate. I have no problem with the principles of justice and fairness. . . . We have been seeking for decades to have those principles respected and implemented in our region. But they have not been respected and implemented by the Israelis, and in that, they have got a continuous, strong American support. If the American administration changes its position and works with us and with the other parties concerned in the region to bring about peace, comprehensive, lasting, just peace, we will be very glad and very enthusiastic to participate in that effort.

{Secretary Baker} said that he does not believe that what happened on the 2nd of August and later was for the cause of the Palestinian question, or to help the Palestinians. I explained to him the history of Iraq's interest in the Palestinian question. I explained to him that the Palestinian question is a matter of national security to Iraq. If the Palestinian question is not resolved, we do not feel secure in our country, because there have been wars in the past. Iraq participated in those wars, Israel attacked Iraq in 1981, and we were expecting Israeli attack on Iraq this year -- last year; in March and April last year we were expecting such an attack. . . .Therefore it is a matter of Iraqi security as well as Arab security to see that the Palestinian question is solved according to . . . principles of justice and fairness.

If the matter is the implementation or the respect of . . . Security Council resolutions, we have a number of resolutions about the Palestinian question. They have been neglected for decades. . . . And the United States and members of the coalition -- as Mr. Baker calls it -- have not sent troops to impose the implementation of those resolutions. They have not taken measures against Israel. . . .

When we discuss the question of the mass destruction of weapons, I told him in 1990 when this question was raised very, very strongly by the American administration, we made it public . . . that Iraq is ready to join an agreement to eliminate all mass destruction weapons in the whole region, including nuclear weapons, biological weapons and chemical weapons.

And I told the secretary that you only concentrate on what Iraq has and you don't show any concern about what Israel has. Israel does have nuclear weapons, and you cannot give me any assurances that Israel is not going to use them against us or against other Arabs. The only assurance -- credible assurance -- is that we reach an agreement on the elimination of all mass destruction weapons. And I told him, you have got a pledge from me to that, and my guess is that you cannot get such a pledge from the foreign minister of Israel or from his prime minister.

This raises, as well as the attitude towards the Security Council resolutions, the question of double standards. I told him we in Iraq and in the Arab world feel strongly against the double standards you used in addressing the questions in the region. When it comes to Israel, you are calm. . . . You can wait for months and years to try to persuade. If they are not persuaded . . . you don't do anything. You continue your support. But when it comes to the Arabs, there you raise the stick. And we are fed up with this policy of double standards. We shall not accept to be treated as a nation as underdogs. We are a proud nation, we have our history, we have our contribution to human civilization, and we would like to be treated in a dignified and just manner.

You hear that I declined to receive the letter from President Bush to my president. At the beginning of the meeting, Secretary Baker told me that he carries a letter from his president to my president, and he handed over a copy to me. I told him I want to read this letter first. And I read it, as he said, carefully and slowly, and I knew what it was about. I told him I am sorry, I cannot receive this letter. And the reason is that the language in this letter is not compatible with the language that should be used in correspondence between heads of state. I have no objection that Mr. Bush would state his position very clearly. A serious exchange of letters between leaders and politicians can or should contain the position of each party. But when a head of state writes to another head of state a letter, and if he really intends to make peace with that head of state or reach genuine understanding, he should use a polite language. And politeness does not contradict with substance.

Q. Mr. Minister, would Iraq agree to leave Kuwait if promised an international conference on the question of Palestine?


A. I did not put it that way. I heard such a question during Mr. Baker's meeting with you. I told the secretary that if you are ready to respect and implement international legality, the principles of justice and fairness as far as all the issues in the region are concerned, you will find us very cooperative. Q.

Do you believe that war with the United States is inevitable?


Well, that is up to the American administration to decide. I told Mr. Baker that we are prepared for all expectations. We have been prepared from the very beginning. . . . if the American administration decides to attack Iraq militarily, Iraq will defend itself in a very bold manner.Q.

Mr. Foreign Minister, in your opening statement, and in fact up to this very moment you have not mentioned Iraq's annexation of Kuwait. I'm curious to know whether you actually ever discussed the question of withdrawal from Kuwait during the course of the six or so hours of talks with Secretary Baker.


Yes. Mr. Baker spoke a lot about the situation in the gulf, and I made our position very clear. I told him this situation is part and parcel of a general situation in the region. If you are ready to address it on the same principles, on the same criteria, I am ready to do the same.Q.

Mr. Foreign Minister, if the war starts in the Middle East, in the gulf, will you attack Israel?


Yes, absolutely, yes. Q.

Foreign Minister, there have been quotes from Baghdad . . . questioning America's will and its resolve, particularly given its Vietnam experience. I wonder if you would give us your reading of America's will.


We have prepared ourselves for the worst from the very beginning. Therefore, we are not making miscalculations about that. But at the same time, I am telling you now that any support in the United States or elsewhere for the cause of peace is a noble phenomenon, and such a noble phenomenon has to be appreciated. We do appreciate the reasonable statements made by American individuals, by American politicians, about the situation in the region. . . .

A. Q.

Mr. Minister, before leaving Baghdad, you said you would have new proposals and ideas. What you've just said this evening you've said many, times before. Why did you have no new proposals?


I raised a lot of ideas with Mr. Baker. I told him why don't you work with us together and with the other parties to bring about a comprehensive peaceful settlement to the whole region? . . . I raised with the secretary the question of the Arab solution. I told him why are you against the Arab solution? And he said that the majority of the Arab countries are against the so-called Arab solution. I told him, wait a minute. I will count one country after the other who has shown interest in an Arab solution, and . . . the number was 11. And this shows that there is a majority among the Arab world to try an Arab solution. But he strongly refused that path, and he even denied that there is an Arab solution -- the idea of a Arab solution. I told him there is an Arab solution. . . . And there is no contradiction between this and then taking that solution to the international organization and seek some sort of an endorsement. . . .

He says that this is the international community versus Iraq, this is the coalition versus Iraq. I told him, but the meeting is between you and me. The fact that the foreign minister of Iraq and the secretary of the United States are meeting here in Geneva discussing the situation shows that this is a confrontation between Iraq and the United States. You have your allies on your side, and we do have our allies on our side. You can count a bigger number. You have the capabilities, and we all know how that number of the coalition was increased. A lot of money -- billions of dollars -- were spent to create that coalition. We are not -- we don't have such money to make a parallel coalition. But those who are supporting Iraq -- they are supporting it genuinely. . . . And I told him, who are the staunchest supporters of Iraq now. The people of Palestine in the occupied territories. Those people were the most affected financially by the events in the gulf. And in spite of their financial and economic hardships, they support Iraq. Why? Because they find in this conflict, a golden chance for themselves that their country, their land -- they themselves -- might be liberated.