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1991: Last ditch efforts to avoid Gulf War

VIDEO : Allied forces prepare for `Desert Storm'

The United Nations Secretary General will leave shortly for Baghdad in a final diplomatic effort to avoid war against Iraq.

Javier Perez de Cuellar is expected to raise the possibility of sending a UN peacekeeping force to Kuwait to oversee the peaceful withdrawal of Iraqi troops.

Saddam Hussein is under UN orders to pull his soldiers out of Kuwait within five days. A Security Council resolution authorises the use of force against Iraq if he fails to comply.

Army longing for a showdown

Talks in Geneva between the Iraqi Foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, and the American Secretary of State, James Baker, broke down yesterday.

After more than six hours of negotiations, Mr Baker said he had heard nothing from the Iraqis to suggest they were preparing to meet the UN deadline.

An official statement from Iraq today said the army was longing for a showdown.

Mr Perez de Cuellar will meet Saddam Hussein in two days' time. UN officials have denied there are any specific peace plans on offer, but a spokesman confirmed there had been some discussion about a peacekeeping force.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said the time for diplomacy was past: "If Saddam Hussein does stay in Kuwait then he will be attacked... It's not going to be altered one way or the other by little bits and pieces of gestures."

Mr Baker is on his way to Saudi Arabia where he will be discussing plans for war rather than peace. He said: "I think there is still a path for peace, that path leads from Baghdad now and the choice is with the government of Iraq."

Britain's ambassador to Iraq, Harold Walker, has been recalled from Baghdad following the breakdown of yesterday's talks in Geneva.

In Context
Iraq refused to comply with the UN ultimatum for its troops to withdraw from Kuwait and at 2330 GMT on 16 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm began.

The Allies launched a devastating and sustained aerial bombardment involving cruise missiles launched from US warships and US, British and Saudi Arabian fighter planes, bombers and helicopters.

After more than a month of intensive air attacks, the Allies launched a land offensive, on 24 February. One day later, the Iraqis began retreating.

On 28 February, President George Bush declared victory.

Kuwait was liberated but Saddam Hussein remained in power in Baghdad until the second war against Iraq in 2003.


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