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Hussein Urges Soviets to Join Arab 'Angels'

September 09, 1990|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BAGHDAD, Iraq — In an urgent summit-eve appeal to his old allies in the Soviet Union, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Saturday called on President Mikhail S. Gorbachev to redeem his nation's status as a superpower by joining "the permanent angels" of the Arab world in a sacred struggle against "the devils" of America and the West.

Hussein's 11th-hour plea, which was delivered in writing to the Soviet leader and broadcast on Iraqi television late Saturday, offered no new initiatives and repeated most of Hussein's recent rhetoric on the issues of Kuwait, Islam and "U.S. intervention" in the Persian Gulf.

Most analysts here saw it as a last-minute attempt by Hussein to play his "Soviet card," a final effort in the Iraqi president's fervent, monthlong search for sympathy in a world that has isolated him.

Recalling Iraq's long friendship with the Soviet Union, which quickly joined with the world of nations in loudly condemning Iraq after Hussein's Aug. 2 conquest of Kuwait, the Iraqi president tried to build a case that the Soviets have supported Iraq's diplomatic claims to Kuwait in the past.

But Hussein also cast the Soviet Union as a former superpower in a world now controlled militarily by the "lone power" of the United States, and he advised President Gorbachev "to restore to the Soviet Union its role by adopting a stand that is in harmony" with Iraq's.

In his advice to President Bush, Hussein declared that the U.S. leader "is required not to push further down the position and reputation of his country, because we are certain that its position will go down on the ladder of appreciation and influence if it were to slide into the abyss of war."

Throughout his lengthy statement, which was read by the president's dapper, television surrogate, Hussein billed the present crisis as a struggle between good and evil, and several times he evoked the outdated vocabulary of Stalinism in his references to the United States.

He referred to "American imperialism and Zionism," to "British colonialism" and to "premeditated conspiracies" in the West that he insisted were, taken together, the true causes of the current crisis.

Hussein said he attached to his written appeal a document that recorded the 1958 position of Abdul Karim Qasim, former head of state in Iraq, that Kuwait was indeed part of Iraq. Hussein took pains to describe Qasim as "a friend of the Soviet Union."

Many diplomatic analysts reacting to the appeal here in Baghdad on Saturday said they expected it to have little impact on the Soviet leadership, which has clearly decided to distance itself from the Iraqi ruler.

"It's already too late for all this," one Western diplomat said. "He's blatantly playing the Soviet card, which is a logical thing for him to do on the eve of the summit. But, at this stage, he should know that the card is of no use. And that's a bit disturbing.

"It all just seems so desperate when you stand back and look at it."

For his part, Hussein insisted that his letter was not even an "appeal," let alone a desperate one. "I am not . . . appealing to any of you on what your decision should be," Hussein stated at the beginning of his message. And he cast it more as an instructional lecture as he continued, "But before taking any decision, you should bear in mind. . . ."

Hussein's appeal to the leaders of the nation that has been instrumental in building Iraq into the world's fourth-largest military force was a transparent one: If the Soviets side with Iraq, they will own the allegiance of the Persian Gulf and the Arab world.

On several occasions, the Iraqi president stressed the number of Muslims--1 billion--and the number of Arabs--200 million--who he said would again look up to Moscow if it takes Baghdad's side in the crisis.

"Before each of you makes your decision on Kuwait," Hussein said, "you should remember that the Arab nation is one. Although it is presently divided, this fact is not decreased."

And he asserted that Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait should not be of any concern to either of the superpowers. "Iraq did not invade with its armies either of your countries," he said, "nor has it any premeditated intention to harm peoples, countries or legitimate interests."

In casting the Helsinki summit as a struggle between God and the devil, Hussein advised, "The angels will be hovering above you on one side and devils on the other" as the two leaders meet today.

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