The Soviet Union has joined with Arab leaders in seeking to postpone any military action against Iraq, at least for the moment, while President Bush says he knows the actions that have been taken against Baghdad are correct.
The latest round of shuttle diplomacy made no progress in the Middle East and the proposed Arab summit came no closer to reality Thursday, but several nations reportedly joined those favoring such a meeting.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led multinational force in the Persian Gulf, said Thursday he had asked President Bush to postpone any military action against Iraq for three months.
Mubarak, speaking to reporters after returning from Damascus where he talked to Syrian President Hafez Assad, said he requested the delay in any strike to give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein time to change his mind and withdraw from Kuwait.
In New York, the Soviet Union's chief Middle East negotiator told The New York Times a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq should be delayed to give Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a 'face saving' reason to leave Kuwait peacefully.
In an interview published Friday, Yevgeny M. Primakov said if Saddam fails to react, not only should the resolution authorizing force be approved, but military action should be taken immediately.
Mubarak made his peace call as a joint U.S.-Saudi amphibious operation began in Eastern Saudi Arabia, near the border of Iraqi- occupied Kuwait.
The exercise, dubbed 'Imminent Thunder,' was to run through Nov. 21 and was to involve 16 ships, about 1,000 Marines and 1,100 aircraft.
Earlier in Damascus, Mubarak and Assad issued a joint communique that accused Iraqi leaders of foiling a peaceful attempt to solve the standoff by setting conditions for any peace meeting.
But Mubarak and Assad left the door open for a peaceful solution when they said in a joint communique issued after Mubarak's two-day visit that they would continue consultations with other Arab leaders 'to preserve the interests and unity of the Arab nation.'
'To give a further chance to the Iraqi president to reconsider his position, and in order to avert a destructive war, I have asked President Bush and his secretary of state to postpone the military option for three months,' Mubarak told reporters in Cairo.
The Egyptian leader said Bush was in any case working to persuade the U.N. Security Council to endorse any military option, so that if a strike became necessary, it would be carried out under 'the umbrella of the United Nations.'
'The two leaders gave due attention to (Moroccan) King Hassan's call for an Arab summit,' said the communique, issued after Mubarak and Assad held three rounds of talks. 'But because of what has been issued directly from Baghdad, setting preconditions, it makes it difficult if not impossible to hold such a summit.'
Baghdad Radio reiterated Thursday Iraq's position that the country's leadership would be willing to attend any new Arab summit, 'provided the resolutions passed at the Cairo summit are declared null and void.'
Both the Soviet Union and China, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have backed Hassan's call for an Arab summit. Of the 21 members of the Arab League, only Jordan, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Mauritania gave immediate backing to the summit call.
But Arab radio stations monitored in Cairo said Yemen and Sudan had also agreed to an Arab summit, and there were signs that Libya, Tunisia and Algeria would join those in favor.
Mubarak himself last month rejected a Soviet proposal for an Arab summit, saying that any gathering without a specific agenda would evolve into a shouting match between pro-Kuwaiti and pro-Iraqi delegates. Iraqi delegates were reported to have thrown plates at Kuwaiti delegates at an Arab gathering after the invasion of Kuwait.
In an interview with Cable News Network, President Bush reiterated his anger at Saddam and defended his own actions in the crisis.
'I know in my heart of hearts that what we are doing is right,' Bush said. 'I know that what the United Nations has done is correct. I know we have to stand up against aggression, an aggression that goes rewarded today means instability and horror tomorrow.'
On the diplomatic front, Cairo Radio said Soviet envoy Alexander Belonogov arrived in Cairo Thursday from the Yemeni capital Sanaa for talkswith the Egyptian leadership.
Vladimir Petrovsky, another Soviet envoy and deputy foreign minister, was reported Thursday to have issued another blunt warning to Iraq to pull its troops out of Kuwait, Rabat Radio said.
'The Soviet Union warned Iraq that war would erupt in the gulf unless it withdrew its troops from Kuwait immediately,' the state-owned radio said after Petrovsky held talks with King Hassan.
Petrovsky, who was later scheduled to visit Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, said Hassan's call for an emergency summit had Soviet support and that Arab nations themselves had the best chance to persuade Iraq to pull out peacefully.