The Bush administration is prodding the United Nations to step up the pace in establishing a permanent Persian Gulf cease-fire as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein seems to be regaining control over rebellious parts of his country.
According to reports Wednesday, the five permanent members of the U. N. Security Council appear to agree on the wording for a cease-fire resolution. But diplomats say adoption of the document might not come until next week because of opposition to some parts of it by non-aligned nations, The Washington Post said.In northern Iraq, Kurdish rebels apparently control the key oil city of Kirkuk, but U.S. officials say Saddam's troops might be regrouping for a major attack to retake it.
Pentagon and State Department officials agreed Kurdish rebels had "the upper hand" in northern Iraq with Kirkuk in their control.
"The Iraqi military appears to have withdrawn from the city for now, although there are indications that Iraqi forces are now regrouping outside the city of Kirkuk," Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said.
"In the south the government continues to consolidate its control," Williams said. "We have detected that Iraqi military units are now moving into smaller villages after gaining control of larger cities and towns but the situation is still fluid."
He said the most intense fighting was along the Euphrates River in southern Iraq.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said some of Saddam's best troops, the Republican Guard, had been diverted from the south to the north.
In Washington, the Bush administration was demanding that Japan pay the full $9 billion it pledged to the war effort, not the $8.6 billion that Tokyo says will fulfill its commitment.
The position stated by the White House on Tuesday would deny Japan a $400 million break created by a change in the exchange rate since the nation initially pledged $9 billion worth of yen.
"We expect Japan to live up to its commitments," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told reporters Tuesday evening.
On the diplomatic front Tuesday, Secretary of State James Baker telephoned representatives of the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council concerning the formal cease-fire proposal, his spokesman said.
Asked if the final document would include an ordered destruction of chemical weapons, Fitzwater said, "The resolution calls for any number of points which I'm not at liberty to go into. But clearly destruction of weapons, mass destruction weapons, is a key part of that."
Saying "we are making good progress," Fitz-water added that all U.S. troops would not be withdrawn from the gulf until after the formal cease-fire is approved and a U.N. observer force in place along the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border.
In other developments:
- People fleeing Iraq brought tales of horror and massacre by Saddam's troops, including bombing of civilian homes into rubble and lining up of entire families to be shot on the spot.
- In Kuwait, electricity was returned to some neighborhoods, but it is expected to take at least a few more weeks before power is fully restored.
- Kuwaiti Crown Prince Saad Al-Sabah is expected to name a new government this week, possibly Thursday, to replace the one that resigned amid complaints it had failed to provide needed postwar services and leadership.
- A second U.N. team arrived in Kuwait Tuesday to assess the suffering and damage in the war-ravaged nation as well as to determine its emergency needs.