BEIJING -- Iraq's deputy prime minister ended yesterday an unexpected, one-day stab at shuttle diplomacy apparently aimed at enlisting China's support for possible concessions if it withdraws from Kuwait. On the face of it, he came away with very little, if anything.
Less than a half-hour after Saadoun Hammadi's talks with top Chinese officials ended, China's official news agency announced that, in those meetings, Chinese Premier Li Peng had "urged Iraq to seize the opportunity and take immediate and concrete measures and actions to withdraw its troops from Kuwait."
The notably quick and strongly worded recounting by the state news agency stressed that China has consistently opposed the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and "demanded unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait."
Mr. Hammadi told China's premier that he had flown here from Moscow with little advance notice on the personal instructions of Saddam Hussein.
Western diplomats speculated that the Iraqi envoy's sudden mission might have been an attempt to bring China into the Soviet Union's current peace initiative, solicit China's support in ongoing U.N. Security Council discussions on the Persian Gulf or merely play out a diplomatic sideshow to forestall an allied ground offensive.
China, a longtime friend to Iraq, has been straddling the fence during the gulf crisis.