An article last Saturday incompletely described the activities of a Lebanese journalist. The journalist, Adel Malek, is managing director of contact Middle East, a London-based company that produces documentaries for several government-run television stations in the Middle East, including those of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain. His contacts are not limited to Saudi Arabia. (Published 2/20/ 91)

AMMAN, JORDAN, FEB. 15 -- Iraq's conditional offer to withdraw its occupation forces from Kuwait brought a jubilant response in the streets of Baghdad today before the dismissal of the offer by leaders of the U.S.-led multinational coalition.

Civilians and members of the Iraqi military took to the streets, firing weapons in celebration following announcement of the withdrawal offer by the ruling Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).

"The world left us no choice. We must leave Kuwait," an Iraqi man told Cable News Network in Baghdad. "It no make sense. No food, no medicine, no electricity. So what can we do?"

Today's announcement was issued in the name of the RCC and only made one passing reference to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Rumors were rampant from Moscow to Tel Aviv that Saddam had been removed from power or had somehow been incapacitated in a war-related incident. However, none of the rumors could be confirmed and there was no concrete information to suggest they were true.

The RCC statement agreed to accept only the first of the 12 United Nations resolutions on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait -- Resolution 660, which required only that Iraqi forces withdraw to their positions immediately prior to the invasion. The statement listed steps "requested from the Iraqi side regarding the issue of withdrawal:" that participants in the war observe a full cease-fire; that the withdrawal from Kuwait be linked to an Israeli pullout from occupied Arab lands; that allied forces be withdrawn from the region within one month, along with arms sent to Israel since the invasion of Kuwait; that the Security Council repeal resolutions condemning the Iraqi invasion; and that nations participating in the coalition "undertake to rebuild what the {allied} aggression has destroyed."

Though it mentioned withdrawal and the ruling Sabah family of Kuwait, the RCC statement did not include the word "Kuwait."

In an interview, Jordanian Foreign Minister Taher Masri said that because of the Iraqi offer, "there is a door open now for implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and, certainly, the parties concerned can elaborate on this." Jordan has been sympathetic to the Iraqi position regarding the Kuwait invasion, and its leaders have maintained close contact with Baghdad throughout the gulf crisis.

Asked about the seriousness of the withdrawal offer, considering the conditions Iraq attached to it, Masri emphasized: "You must look at the theme. The key word is 'withdrawal' and a certain kind of linkage. Saddam will not surrender. There is a sort of linkage, even if the parties don't want it to be a condition."

Masri said he regretted President Bush's quick rejection of the offer, adding that the proposal deserved more careful consideration. He indicated that the Iraqi proposal was inspired by a joint statement Jan. 29 by Secretary of State James A. Baker III and his Soviet counterpart, Alexander Bessmertnykh, calling for redoubled efforts to resolve pressing regional problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East arms race.

"The Iraqis wanted to create some kind of political stirring," said Laila Sharaf, a member of the Jordanian parliament. "It may seem their proposal is not going anywhere, since the conditions are stiffer than usual, but if there is a will, this is a plan that can be modified from this extreme position and changed."

The most dramatic change signaled by the RCC statement was that Baghdad is now speaking publicly in terms of withdrawal -- a word virtually banned from the Iraqi vocabulary since the Kuwait invasion.

"No one will utter the word 'withdrawal' when the Iraqi and American armies are face to face and war might erupt in a few hours," Saddam was quoted as telling U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar during a Jan. 13 meeting in Baghdad. "To utter the word 'withdrawal' while there is still a chance for war means that we would be creating the psychological conditions for enemy victory over us," he added, according to an Iraqi transcript of the meeting published this week by the Jordanian newspaper Al Dustur.

In another departure, the RCC statement omitted any mention of Kuwait as Iraq's "19th province." Iraq had vowed never to relinquish Kuwait once it annexed the tiny emirate shortly after the Aug. 2 invasion.

A London-based Middle East analyst said of the RCC announcement: "Even if the offer appears to be going nowhere for now, it shifts the focus away from the liberation of Kuwait to the destruction of Iraq as a real issue for the Iraqi people."

The language of the statement suggested that Iraq was seeking to save face by declaring victory, having withstood 30 days of massive allied bombardment.

Iraq, the statement said, "has triumphed because it has remained steadfast, courageous, faithful, dignified and strong-willed. Its material losses in this battle, despite their enormity, are small compared to its spirit of determination, its firm belief in principles and strong determination to continue the course of renaissance and progress."

Arab analysts differed in their assessment of the motivation behind the new plan.

"The military situation is difficult in Iraq. The war is going to end with military destruction that Saddam wants to turn into political success," observed Adel Malek, a London-based analyst who has close contacts with the Saudi government.

"The plan does mention withdrawal, but it is replete with contradictions," Malek added. "It reads like a revised old book with minor changes. The big message is this is not about the liberation of Kuwait, this is about the devastation of Iraq. Look at it as an introduction, not an ending."

Another Arab analyst said the initiative "has something for everyone, and it provides the Soviets with something to play with." The Iraqi offer followed a visit to Baghdad this week by Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov. Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz is scheduled to travel to Moscow on Sunday.

Observers here noted that the reaction in the streets of Baghdad exposed the frustration and exasperation of Iraqi citizens, for whom the occupation of Kuwait has turned into a recipe for ruin and tragedy.

"If you read between the lines, there is an intention to relieve some of the mounting pressure. This proposal will have political and psychological effect in the Iraqi as well as the Arab street," a Jordanian historian noted.

A well-informed Iraqi source in Amman said the RCC statement suggested that the momentum of the war and the suffering it was bringing to the Iraqi people were working against the government.

"Before the land battle starts, we have to prove to our people that we would do anything for their safety, even proving we are willing to pull out of Kuwait," he said. "One must not forget that Saddam is not only addressing his initiative to the West. He has his own domestic calculations."

Sharaf, the Jordanian legislator, said that Saddam's defiance of the West and the mere fact that he has been able to resist for four weeks has "strengthened a certain self-confidence among Arabs to forge their own path, even if it all ends up in a big defeat.

"He will have won in a certain way, though he may not be around to see it," she added.

In addition to calling for a cease-fire, the RCC said Iraq's withdrawal should be linked, among other conditions, to political reforms in Kuwait. It noted that "Iraq's historical rights on land and at sea should be guaranteed in full in any peaceful solution" -- an apparent reference to Iraq's long-standing territorial claim against Kuwait.

The RCC called on the United States and other countries participating in the allied coalition to "withdraw all forces, weapons and equipment that they brought to the Middle East region before and after August 1990, including the weapons and equipment that certain countries provided to Israel under the pretext of the crisis in the gulf," within a month of the cease-fire.

The RCC said it expected the Security Council to "enforce against Israel the same resolutions {pending against it as those} passed against Iraq," should Israel fail to withdraw from "Palestine and the Arab territories it is occupying in the Golan {Heights} and southern Lebanon."