LONDON -- British Prime Minister John Major matched President Bush's "cruel hoax" reaction to Iraq's withdrawal initiative yesterday, calling the Baghdad move "something of a bogus sham."
Mr. Major, who has committed the second-largest Western force to the Persian Gulf war, said, "The more we learn about what has been said, the more that seems to be the case."
Defense Secretary Tom King said simply, "It has got to be unconditional withdrawal." He added, "You can't go into a country, grab it, seize it and then say you will argue about the terms on which you are prepared to go, and that has been the situation since August."
Mr. King said that if the Iraqi statement were implicit recognition that Kuwait was no longer considered as Iraq's "Province 19" but a nation in its own right, "that would be a step in the right direction."
Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock of the opposition, who is facing increasing restiveness from leftists in the party's ranks over conduct of the war, said Iraq's statement was "a major change in direction."
But Mr. Kinnock, who has supported the government's gulf policy, stressed the United Nations' demand for unconditional withdrawal.