BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Russian diplomats kept pushing for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis, while an official Iraqi newspaper accused U.N. officials Sunday of giving the United States a “green light” to attack.
Defense Secretary William Cohen headed to the Gulf to seek support for the U.S. position, but in a setback, Saudi Arabia’s defense minister said his country opposed a military strike on Iraq.
On the diplomatic end, Russian envoy Viktor Posuvalyuk met twice Saturday with Iraq’s deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, Iraqi television reported.
Posuvalyuk also spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan by phone to try to resolve “the crisis the United States created against Iraq,” the state-run television said in a broadcast monitored by the BBC in London.
Iraq has been sparring with the United Nations for weeks over U.N. weapons inspections of “sovereign sites,” including presidential palaces. The United States has threatened military action to force Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions.
Britain has supported U.S. threats of an air strike and has sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf. On Saturday, Chancellor Helmut Kohl declared Germany’s support, telling visiting U.S. senators that the United States could use German air bases.
Senior Saudi sources have said that the kingdom has refused to give permission for U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia to be used for a strike.
And Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, Prince Sultan, was quoted Sunday by the Arab News as saying, “We are against striking Iraq as a people and as a nation.”
Cohen has signed a formal deployment order sending nearly 50 U.S. combat and support aircraft to the Gulf region, a Pentagon official said.
In Cairo, the secretary-general of the Arab League, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, said Sunday that the group has forwarded proposals aimed at resolving the crisis to the U.N. Security Council for consideration.
“The proposals will satisfy the U.N. demands to allow its inspectors to enter sites suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction, while preserving Iraq’s dignity and sovereignty,” Abdel-Meguid said.