NICOSIA, Cyprus — American military cargo planes Sunday began parachuting emergency food supplies to suffering Kurdish refugees caught in the rugged mountain frontier region between Iraq and Turkey.
A U.S. military officer at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey said that eight C-130 cargo planes loaded with food made the first drop to the several hundred thousand isolated Kurds on both sides of the Iraqi-Turkish border. British, French and German aircraft are expected to join in the emergency airlift today.
In the United States, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that while the airdrop operation originally was planned to last 10 days, "there's no duration" set now.
In neighboring Iran, meanwhile, officials said they have been overwhelmed by more than 580,000 Kurdish refugees and are unable to accept several hundred thousand more, now waiting across the Iran-Iraq frontier, without more supplies to feed and house them.
"There is an urgent need for bread, lentils, canned goods, blankets, portable lamps, dates, raisins, shoes and clothing," Iranian Radio reported Sunday from a crisis headquarters set up to provide relief to the flood of refugees.
In Baghdad, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used the occasion of his ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party's anniversary day to make a radio speech declaring victory over Kurdish rebels fighting government forces in northern Iraq.
"Iraq defeated the most serious conspiracy against the unity of its land and sovereignty, although the country is bleeding from the (Gulf) war wounds," Hussein said.
The triumphal speech came a day after Hussein's government accepted severe U.N. Security Council terms for a permanent cease-fire in the Gulf War. The speech was the latest attempt by the Iraqi leader to consolidate his power and boost public spirits in the wake of the Iraqi acceptance of conditions that would essentially disarm Iraq and mortgage a major part of its oil reserves to pay war reparations to Kuwait.
On Saturday, Hussein appointed his cousin and son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan, to the key post of defense minister. On Sunday, the government announced an increase in flour and rice rations.
In his speech, which was read over Baghdad Radio by an announcer, Hussein even hinted of mistakes by his ruling Baath Party government when he talked about a movement toward democracy in Iraq. "We are all called upon to be frank with our people, and we must practice criticism and self-criticism, expose faults, correct faults and raise our national struggle to a new level," he said.
Libya, one of Iraq's staunchest allies during the Gulf crisis, lashed out Sunday at Iraq's acceptance of what it described as the "humiliating" U.N. cease-fire resolution.
"On a sad, black day which came as a shock to the Arab masses, the Iraqi government announced its acceptance of the humiliating U.N. Security Council resolution," Libyan Radio said in a broadcast monitored here. "Nobody ever believed Iraq would accept this humiliating resolution, even if it meant its disappearance from the world map."
Of specific relevance to Libya, which has been accused by the United States and other countries of producing chemical and biological weapons, was a provision in the cease-fire resolution ordering the destruction of chemical and biological weapons and material that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
By agreeing to these provisions, the official Libyan Radio said, "Iraq disappointed everyone and made us all--we the Arabs--drink the cup of humiliation."
The Turkish Anatolian News Agency reported that U.S. aircraft involved in the airdrop of food Sunday carried about 36 tons of supplies, part of $10 million in aid that President Bush has pledged to the Kurds. The airdrop is necessary because many of the areas where the fleeing Kurds are camped are inaccessible by land vehicles.
The urgency of the Kurdish plight was underlined Saturday when Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Kurtcebe Alptemocin estimated that 1,500 Kurds have died making their desperate exodus to Turkey. Turkey has an estimated 280,000 Kurds massed on its borders.
The emergency airdrop and relief effort by the United States and other Western countries is concentrated in Turkey, which was an important ally in the international coalition that fought against Iraq. However, Interior Ministry officials in Iran said Sunday that their needs in dealing with the huge Kurdish migration are at least as great as those of Turkey.
"Several hundred thousand people are waiting on the other side of the border to obtain permission to enter," Iranian Radio reported, quoting an official with the Interior Ministry crisis headquarters. "But due to a shortage of resources, their acceptance cannot be envisaged."