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As Baker Prepares to Meet Iraqi, Bush Stands Firmly Against Linkage

January 7, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

As Secretary of State James Baker prepares to meet in Geneva on Wednesday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, the Bush administration appears to be holding firm on its policy of no linkage between the Persian Gulf crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Bush rejected any such linkage again Friday, telling reporters at a news conference that Baker will not discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue with Aziz.

Aziz was quoted Friday as saying that he will bring up the Palestinian issue when he meets with Baker.

“We can’t tell anybody what he can bring up at a discussion, but there will be no linkage,” Bush said.

The president said he did not even have to instruct Baker on that point.

“He and I are in total sync on this, and so are the rest of the alliance,” Bush said. “There will be no linkage on these two questions.”

Baker reaffirmed this position in an appearance Sunday on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley.”

“We will not agree to anything that would constitute linkage of the Kuwait-Iraq problem to other problems,” he said.

Baker also appeared to rule out a French proposal that if Iraq withdraws from Kuwait, an international conference on the Middle East would be held soon afterward.


In Paris, French President Francois Mitterrand reiterated Friday that he believes “there is a link” between the Gulf crisis and the Palestinian issue. He maintained at a news conference that the link between the two was the right of nations to self-determination.

But Baker said Sunday, “We think that is a terrible mistake.”

The secretary said he is not going to Geneva to negotiate with Aziz, but to tell the Iraqi leadership “face to face” that it has only two options.

“One is to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions fully and withdraw from Kuwait,” Baker said. He repeated Bush’s assurances that if Iraq does this, the United States will not use force against it.

But if Iraq does not comply by the Jan. 15 U.N. deadline, it will face the second option, an attack from the United States and its Gulf allies.

Bush said in a radio address Saturday from Camp David that these two options are all that Baker will discuss. “This will not be secret diplomacy at work,” he said.

But the president and other administration leaders are maintaining that the decision to use force has not yet been made.

The Jan. 15 deadline is for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait, “not a deadline for our own armed forces,” Bush said in his radio address.

“Still, time is running out,” he said. “It’s running out because each day that passes brings real costs.”

He explained that the Iraqi leader is strengthening his forces in Kuwait, and “each day that passes brings Saddam Hussein further on the path to developing biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.”

“The only chance for peace is if they finally begin to realize in Iraq that the international community is serious,” Bush said.


In Jerusalem, the Israeli Cabinet was briefed Sunday on the upcoming Baker-Aziz meeting and told by intelligence experts that Bush is firmly determined to face down Hussein, whether by peaceful or other means.

The Israeli Cabinet ministers were given estimates of the respective military might of the opposing forces.

The Iraqis have 540,000 troops in the war zone. But experts said the technological gap gives U.S. ground and air forces a qualitative edge.

Israel army radio reported that the United States has massed 1,500 planes and 1,300 helicopters in the area.

The Israeli Cabinet also discussed the ongoing military maneuvers in Jordan, which has given military planners cause for concern.

An unidentified expert told the ministers that Israel’s neighbors fully understand Israel’s position that if attacked, it will strike back hard.

(JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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