Iraq summons ambassadors home for talks


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq has recalled its ambassadors from major European countries, the United States, Japan and elsewhere for urgent consultations this week over the diplomatic deadlock in the Persian Gulf crisis.

The recall of important members of Iraq's senior diplomatic corps appeared to some Western officials here to be a sign that President Saddam Hussein was preparing a final diplomatic initiative before the Jan. 15 deadline by which the United Nations Security Council has demanded an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

Among those recalled were Mohammed al-Mashat, the ambassador to Washington, and Abdul Amir al-Enbari, the envoy to the United Nations, as well as the ambassadors to London, Paris and Tokyo. The ambassador to Moscow has also been recalled.

Last night, the ambassadors were meeting with senior Foreign Ministry officials, who were not available for comment.

The recall followed a series of Iraqi failures to gain support in Arab and European capitals for an Arab mediation initiative to end the crisis, a step that could undermine or divide the international coalition that is holding Iraq to the Jan. 15 deadline under the threat of force.

President Bush offered his own plan for a final round of diplomacy to avert military conflict, but Mr. Bush and Mr. Hussein have not been able to agree on the dates for such talks.

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