Saudi Arabia is reported to be working on a plan to avert war in Iraq by encouraging the Iraqi military to overthrow Saddam Hussein in return for amnesty for all but the most senior officials.
The weekly U-S news magazine Time cites what it calls "well-placed" sources who say Saudi officials are vigorously pursuing a plan to enlist Iraqi generals in a coup against Saddam Hussein.
The report says amnesty would be offered to all but about 100 of the most senior officials under President Saddam. The Iraqi leader's sons and close relatives and his longest-serving political associates would be excluded from an amnesty.
Western and Arab diplomats familiar with the Saudi proposal reportedly feel that any amnesty offer should be backed by a resolution from the United Nations Security Council. But at least one Gulf diplomat (quoted by Reuters) says such action might not be necessary. Meanwhile, the German news weekly Der Spiegel cites unnamed ambassadors in Dubai from one Western and two Arab countries as saying the Iraqi government is seeking guarantees that would allow Saddam Hussein and other senior Iraqi officials to go into exile -- possibly to an African country.
Iraqi conditions reportedly include the pullout of U-S troops from the region, an end to U-N sanctions and weapons inspections, a halt to Israeli production of weapons of mass destruction and a pledge that President Saddam and other exiles will not face prosecution.
The German magazine says the United States has rejected the conditions, and that Egypt is now trying to persuade Baghdad to make compromises.
However, an Iraqi special envoy to Syria, Ali Hassan al-Majid, says the reports are absurd. He calls them a "psychological war technique," and says not even an infant would believe them. Mr. al-Majid is both a cousin to Saddam Hussein and a member of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council.