Bush Says Arab Countries Will Join Gulf Defense; Israel Not Mentioned

President Bush declared Wednesday that he believes other countries, including Arab states, will join the United States in sending forces into Saudi Arabia to defend the oil-rich kingdom from a possible attack by Iraq.

“It would not be at all surprising if there was an Arab force,” Bush said at a White House news conference.

One country that has not been mentioned as part of the multinational force is Israel.

But a statement issued Wednesday by the Iraqi Armed Forces General Command said that the United States had established “detailed coordination with the Zionist entity,” and had given Israeli pilots U.S. passports and repainted Israeli fighter planes with U.S. insignias.

The Israel Defense Force denied the charge, saying it was “another of President Saddam Hussein’s lies intended to further his objectives.”

Iraq’s charge seems to be the reverse of that made after the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab radio stations claimed that the Israeli planes were really repainted U.S. planes with American pilots.

Bush announced in a brief television address Wednesday morning that he had sent in U.S. land, air and naval forces to Saudi Arabia at that government’s request.

BRITAIN JOINS TROOPS

He said at a news conference later that the Saudis would announce other countries that it had invited to join the multinational force. The only other country announcing its involvement so far is Britain.

For a time on Tuesday, after Defense Secretary Dick Cheney met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Hassan II of Morocco, it appeared that both countries might send troops to help defend Saudi Arabia.

But both Arab leaders denied this Wednesday. Mubarak said he might send Egyptian troops if needed. Mubarak has scheduled an Arab League summit Thursday to deal with the situation.

Bush maintained that “we are in very close agreement” with Mubarak, and that Hassan has been very supportive.

As the first contingents from the 82nd Airborne Division and Air Force units began arriving in Saudi Arabia, Bush stressed that the U.S. troops are not there to force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to move out of Kuwait, which he invaded Aug. 2.

He said the immediate aim was to safeguard Saudi Arabia, while the overall U.S. objective is the “immediate and complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait” and the restoration of “Kuwait’s legitimate government.”

Bush said he believes this will be done not by force, but by the international trade embargo that has been placed against Iraq.

“I would think that if this international lesson is taught well, Saddam Hussein will behave differently in the future,” Bush said.

He maintained that the economic sanctions, which included the freezing of Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the United States and other countries, “should begin biting very soon.” He added, “This embargo is going to be all encompassing, and that includes food.”

Bush said that while Iraq is rich in oil, it has “squandered” its assets on arms. “Nobody can stand up forever to total economic deprivation,” Bush said.

Bush admitted that his administration has tried “very hard” to improve U.S. relations with Iraq. “I have no regrets about having tried to have discussions that might have led to a better relationship.”

While not directly calling Hussein a new Hitler, Bush seemed to imply comparison in his address.”As was the case in the 1930s, we see in Saddam Hussein an aggressive dictator threatening his neighbors,” the president said, noting how “Iraq’s tanks stormed in blitzkrieg fashion through Kuwait.”

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