AMMAN, JORDAN, FEB. 17 -- Iraq warned today that U.S. dismissal of the truce proposal it made Friday might shut the door to peace, and it played down the role of conditions attached to its offer to pull out of Kuwait.
"The American rejection of this chance could push the war in the direction where all doors to a political solution are closed," Al Thawra, the newspaper of the ruling Baath Party, said.
While Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz went to Moscow today in a new bid to find a diplomatic end to the war, Baghdad's official voices continued to talk tough about the country's ability to withstand any land war. Baghdad Radio said that while the planes of the U.S.-led alliance "have managed to fire their missiles from a distance, the situation is different on the ground, where one million valiant Iraqi fighters are massed."
In New York, Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Abdul Amir Anbari, said Baghdad's offer Friday to accept Security Council Resolution 660, which called on it to pull out of Kuwait, should not have been rejected by Washington and its allies on the grounds that it contained unacceptable conditions.
The resolution calls for an unconditional pullout of Iraqi troops from Kuwait and subsequent negotiations between the two states.
"We shouldn't use the word 'conditions,' we shouldn't use the word 'linkage,' " Anbari was quoted as saying, suggesting that Iraq wants the long list of points it attached to a pledge for withdrawal to be considered more as talking points for negotiations than as firm demands.
"It was not proper, really, for the United States, without studying the statement" to "dismiss it without resorting to the Security Council," Anbari said. "Over the past few weeks we have heard so many complaints that Iraq simply would not utter the word withdrawal or utter the word Kuwait. Now when Iraq came with this important proposal . . . they said our list is just a piece of propaganda."
At the same time, Anbari warned that Iraq might use chemical weapons if the allied coalition continues to bomb civilian sites. "We consider the use of any mass destructive weapon against Iraq would be a justification for Iraq to use, unfortunately, similar mass destructive weapons against that country in self-defense," he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Baghdad experienced its quietest night since the war began, with no air raids late Saturday or early Sunday, the Associated Press reported. It said the city was buffeted by heavy rain and a sand storm, impairing visibility.
Information Minister Latif Nassif Jassim charged that allied bombing since Jan. 17, when the war began, had killed 585 civilians in three cities -- Hilla, south of Baghdad; Fallujah, to the west; and Nasiriya, in the southeast -- and the official Iranian news agency quoted Iraqi officials as saying allied bombing had killed 250 people in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. There was no independent confirmation, and allied officials have said they do not target civilians.
Baghdad's mayor, Jhalid Janaba, told Brent Sadler, correspondent for Britain's Independent Television News, that allied bombing has largely destroyed the city's electricity and water distribution facilities and that, as a result, epidemics of typhoid and cholera are likely. Sadler said people in poor and densely populated areas are collecting water from contaminated sources, such as the Tigris River.
Iraq said it fired three Scud missiles overnight at an Israeli nuclear reactor "dedicated to war purposes" at Dimona, in the Negev desert in southern Israel. Israel, which does not give locations of Scud impacts for security reasons, said only that two landed in "open areas" within Israel Saturday night -- one of them, for the first time, in the south -- and that there were no casualties or damage.
At a news conference here today, Cornelio Sommaruga, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he was trying to go to Baghdad to arrange visits with allied prisoners of war but was having problems contacting Iraqi authorities because the only channel of communications is through Iran.
Sommaruga said ICRC delegates are visiting "a large number" of POWs in Saudi Arabia, but that despite several requests Iraq had not given permission for the Red Cross to visit allied prisoners it holds.
Meanwhile, the United Nations announced that trucks carrying 50 tons of emergency medical supplies for treatment of children and mothers arrived safely in Baghdad from Iran on Saturday after requests by U.N. groups that allied forces avoid bombing along the overland route from the Iranian border to Baghdad.
The U.N. Children's Fund, which organized the convoy in conjunction with the World Health Organization, said a seven-member team from both agencies would spend a week evaluating essential health needs of women, children, the elderly and displaced people.