NICOSIA Ñ Syria and Turkey have launched separate diplomatic efforts to prevent
a U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Arab diplomatic sources said Syria wants to
save the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein while Turkey is leading efforts for his exile.Both countries plan to convene foreign ministers of Middle East
countries over the next week.
On Friday, Iraqi envoy Ali Hassan
Majid met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus.
Majid was to have met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on
Saturday to discuss "personal" issues on behalf of Saddam. But Arab diplomatic sources said the United States warned that it
would press for Majid's capture as a war criminal suspect, Middle East Newsline reported. Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," has been
accused of killing hundreds of thousands of Kurds in chemical weapons
attacks in the 1980s.
The senior aide to Saddam dismissed reports that he was seeking to explore an
Arab plan for the Iraqi president's exile. Majid, a cousin of Saddam and
member of the Iraqi Revolutionary Council, said the reports were fabricated
by the United States.
"This is absurd," Majid said. "It's a psychological war technique. If
you ask an infant in Iraq he wouldn't believe such reports."
But the diplomatic sources said Saddam has relayed a series of
conditions for agreeing to leave Iraq. They include U.S. guarantees that he
will not be prosecuted and that the U.S. military will leave the Persian
Majid delivered a message from Saddam to the Syrian
president that was said to have dealt with U.S. threats against Iraq.
Syria has invited the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey as well as
those of three Arab countries. They are Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk A-Shaara has been touring Arab capitals to
ensure support for the conference. A meeting is expected to take place on
For its part, Turkey has been promoting a plan for Saddam's exile to
avoid a U.S.-led
war against Iraq. Ankara hopes to host Arab representatives over the next
"Saddam Hussein must stop being a threat to the region and the world,"
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said. "And he has to prove that. Our
primary objective as countries in the region is to exert pressure on Saddam
in this direction."