WASHINGTON — Key senators demanded Friday that Secretary of State James A. Baker III explain why the State Department did not set the record straight after April Glaspie, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, allegedly misled Congress about her talks with President Saddam Hussein shortly before his troops invaded Kuwait.
In March, Glaspie told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she took a tough line with Hussein, specifically warning against any Iraqi military aggression, when she met with him in Baghdad only eight days before the invasion last Aug. 2.
But the cable she sent to the State Department to summarize her session with Hussein was entitled "Saddam's Message of Friendship to President Bush," the senators said, and its contents indicated that she took a "soft, conciliatory tone" with the dictator.
Although Iraqi military forces already were massing near the Kuwaiti border, Glaspie cabled Washington after the two-hour meeting that Hussein's "emphasis that he wants a peaceful settlement is surely sincere," according to a source familiar with her report.
Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the secret cables that Glaspie sent to Washington after the Baghdad meeting on July 25, 1990, contradicted her statements before his panel in March of this year.
Another committee member, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), called on Baker to declassify the cable and suggested that Glaspie be called before the committee again to provide sworn testimony on the matter. She did not speak under oath in March.
Late Friday, Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger reportedly sent a letter to Pell asking to appear before the committee with Glaspie to respond to the charges.
In the letter, Eagleburger asked to appear at the panel's earliest convenience "to respond to any questions senators may have about any misimpressions there may be," a senior State Department official told the Reuters news service.
Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the panel's ranking Republican, said the Senate should look into the apparent discrepancies between Glaspie's statements before the committee and the content of her cables. Helms also asked for an FBI investigation to determine who leaked portions of the Glaspie cables to the Washington Post, which published excerpts on Friday.
"April Glaspie deliberately misled the Congress about her role in the Persian Gulf tragedy," Cranston said at a news conference. "Because the real record is at such variance with the public record . . . I call upon the Administration to declassify the materials made available to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."
Cranston noted that the State Department was aware that Glaspie's cable differed on many important points with her statements to the Senate panel. "The Glaspie transcripts raise broad and troubling questions about the Administration's willingness to be a party to false statements to Congress," he said.
In addition, Cranston said that "a stern warning to Saddam Hussein at that time could have prevented the invasion (of Kuwait) and all the death and destruction it caused."
In her statements to the committee, Glaspie said she delivered a tough message to Hussein. But Pell said her cable summarizing the meeting reflected a more cordial atmosphere, with no explicit statement of how the United States would respond to an Iraqi takeover of Kuwait.
"No place (in the cable) does she report clearly delivering the kind of warning she described in her (statement) to the committee," Pell said. "In some instances, her statement is contradicted by the reporting cable."
Pell said, for example, that in the cable Glaspie said she told Hussein: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts like your border disagreement with Kuwait."
Even when asking the Iraqi leader about his huge military buildup near the Kuwaiti border, Glaspie reportedly said in her cable that she posed the question gently, "in the spirit of friendship, not confrontation."
While Glaspie was not under oath when she spoke before the committee, Senate aides said that it is a misdemeanor to mislead Congress even by unsworn statements.
Glaspie has been appointed diplomat in residence at UC San Diego, but she is not expected to arrive in that post until late August, a university official said.