Unity 'close' on use of force, Bush says President meets with Egyptian, Syrian


GENEVA -- Concluding a weeklong globe trot to build support for a military strike to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, President Bush declared yesterday he is "very, very close" to his goal.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to take up the issue next week, and Mr. Bush told

reporters, "I am confident we will be successful."

"The world is getting tired of this," he said at a joint news conference in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"The Security Council is tired of the fact that resolutions have been passed calling for immediate withdrawal [from Kuwait], and they haven't been implemented."

Even though officials of Yemen, which is a member of the Security Council, have said they will not support such a resolution, Mr. Bush indicated that is not an insurmountable obstacle.

His aides said Yemen may abstain as a gesture of friendship to Iraq.

The new resolution is not intended to be an immediate declaration of war but rather a demonstration to Iraqi President Hussein of the risk he runs by refusing to withdraw from Kuwait.

But Mr. Mubarak said yesterday that he had little hope armed conflict could be avoided because Iraq had shown no movement despite more than three months of a global economic embargo.

"I am by nature very optimistic, but in this crisis, to an extent, I am pessimistic," he told reporters while waiting for Mr. Bush at the Qubba guest palace. "I don't see the slightest movement."

Asked whether there should be a military solution, the Egyptian leader said, "There is no way out. Any means should be used. . . . Kuwait must be liberated under any circumstances."

Mr. Mubarak, who has sent 20,000 troops to join U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, also indicated that "a coordinated plan" has been developed for the deployment of the allied forces in case of a military offensive.

To give his threat of war further credence, Mr. Bush cut through years of strained relations with Syria by stopping briefly in Geneva last night to meet with Syrian President Hafez el Assad, who has pledged to send more than 20,000 troops to Saudi Arabia.

"Mr. Assad is lined up with us with a commitment to force," thepresident said.

"That doesn't mean we have no differences with Syria. We've got big differences on certain categories . . . but they are on the front line, or will be, standing up against this aggression."

Another administration official noted: "If you're taking on a leader like Saddam Hussein and want to avoid the enmity of rank-and-file Arabs, it's helpful to have significant Arab leaders on your side."

The two presidents met for nearly three hours before Mr. Bush headed back to Washington around midnight.

They discussed several issues, including terrorism and the hostages in Lebanon, as well as their partnership in the Persian Gulf.

This first meeting in 13 years between U.S. and Syrian leaders drew a sharp protest in Israel, which considers Syria one of its most dangerous foes and is alarmed about the prospect of warmer Syrian-U.S. relations.

The Jerusalem Post said the meeting sent a signal that "radical

ism, fanaticism, terrorism and anti-Americanism pays."

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens said he suspected that the United States was about to take Syria off the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a distinction that until recently had severely limited Syria's dealings with the United States.

Mr. Bush insisted his only goal was to confer with Mr. Assad as an "important part" of the gulf coalition against Iraq.

"Nobody should read more into it or less into it," he said.

But Mr. Arens observed: "In the Middle East, the meeting is the message."

In response to such concerns, Mr. Bush announced yesterday that he would receive Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Washington next month.

That session would also end a period of relative estrangement between Israel and the United States, which has twice voted in the United Nations to condemn the killing of at least 18 Arabs by Israeli police in Jerusalem last month.

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