CAIRO, Egypt -- The Arab League convened an emergency session Thursday to consider its response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which asked Arab nations and the United States for military intervention to liberate its territory.
Lebanon was the first Arab country to condemn Iraq's invasion, amid reports fighting continued in Kuwait and that the brother of Kuwait's ruler was killed.
'Kuwait has asked Arab nations to prepare an allied expeditionary force to liberate its territory from Iraqi occupation,' said a diplomatic source at an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.
Sources said Kuwait asked the Arab League, which convened in emergency session at the request of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to activate a joint Arab defense pact and come to the emirate's aid 'as soon as possible.'
There was no immediate response from the Arab League. The pact has never been activated before, even in an Arab-Israeli war.
The sources said Kuwait had also asked its partners in the six-member (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council to abide by the group's defense pactand come to the emirate's aid. Other GCC members are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
'Kuwait is expecting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to take the lead, in conjunction with friendly countries such as Egypt, and help the heroic Kuwaiti armed forces, who are still struggling against all the odds to free their homeland from the aggressor,' an Arab diplomatic source said.
Saudi Arabia is the most powerful GCC member with a formidable array of sophisticated medium-range ballistic missiles and one of the best-equipped air forces in the region.
Neither Egypt, an ally of Iraq, nor Saudi Arabia, one of Kuwait's closest allies, made any immediate comment on the Iraqi invasion.
Egypt has the largest armed forces in the Arab world but it remained unlikely Mubarak would deploy them against ally Iraq.
The calls for Arab help came as Kuwait's ambassador in Washington said he had asked the United States for military intervention.
Western diplomats said the Arab League and the GCC would probably strongly condemn the Iraqi invasion but not resort to force.
The GCC's small allied military force is not considered a match for Iraq's 1-million-strong armed forces with sophisticated weaponry left from Baghdad's nearly eight-year war with Iran, suspended under a 1988 cease-fire.
Arab foreign ministers, including foreign ministers of all GCC states except Kuwait, were in Cairo for a five-day Organization of Islamic Conference meeting that began Tuesday.
On Thursday the 45-member OIC called for a halt to the fighting but did not condemn the invasion.
'We call for an immediate halt in all military operations between Iraq and Kuwait and the withdrawal of forces which conducted these operations to internationally recognized borders between the two states,' said OIC Secretary-General Hamed El Ghabed.
Kuwaiti delegates to the OIC meeting wept openly upon hearing news of the Iraqi invasion and about 50 Kuwaitis living in Cairo chanted, 'death to (Iraqi leader) Saddam' Hussein.
The leader of Kuwait's delegation at the OIC meeting said heavy fighting was continuing in the streets of Kuwait.
'Resistance to the aggressors is continuing and will continue,' Abdulrahman al Awadi told reporters.
Kuwaitis reached by telephone from Cairo said shooting and explosions could still be heard at 5:45 p.m. and that fighting was heavy around the palaces of the emir and the crown prince, where crack Kuwaiti troops were camped.
Witnesses in Kuwait said the brother of Kuwait's Emir, Sheikh Fahad al Ahmad al Sabah, head of the emirate's Olympic Committee, was killed while defending the royal palace.
Lebanon became the first Arab state to condemn the invasion and Lebanese Premier Selim Hoss, in Cairo for the OIC meeting, called on the Arab League to follow Beirut's lead.
'None of us can find any justification for what has happened between the two sisterly nations, no matter what the pretext,' Hoss told reporters at Cairo's downtown Semiramis hotel, where fellow Arab foreign ministers were meeting.
'I call on the Arab League to take a serious stand against the Iraqi invasion,' said Hoss, whose government is supported by Iraq's arch Arab ideological foe, Syria.
'Arab League councils should adopt Kuwait's position in condemning the Iraqi invasion and calling for a withdrawal of Iraqi forces,' Hoss added.
United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayam suspended his official visit to Egypt and left Cairo for talks with Saudi King Fahd on the situation in the Persian Gulf.
The UAE, together with Kuwait, was a target of Iraqi media attacks two weeks ago when Baghdad accused both Gulf states of dumping crude on world markets and weakening Iraq's cash-strapped economy.