The Bush administration said Tuesday that it was considering expanding American military forces in the Persian Gulf beyond the 240,000 troops and other personnel already stationed there or soon to arrive. Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had discussed the possibility of dispatching additional American troops with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of U.S. forces in the gulf. The two met during Powell's visit to Saudi Arabia this week.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney plans to meet with Powell after the general's return to Washington before deciding whether additional forces should be sent, Williams said.
The pending troop decision will provide one of the clearest clues as to how the Bush administration intends to handle the crisis in the Persian Gulf.
A decision to send large numbers of additional forces would be an indication that the administration is laying the groundwork for possible offensive military action to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.
A decision to stand pat while not excluding the use of military force, particularly one that emphasized air power, would appear to indicate that a ground offensive is less likely.
While the United States has already amassed a large force in the Persian Gulf, some military officials say, the Pentagon has not yet deployed enough logistical supplies to support an offensive ground action.
Bush says "no compromise'
President Bush again compared President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to Hitler on Tuesday and declared that there could never be any compromise with him on Kuwait.
Speaking at a political rally in Manchester, N.H., only a day after Saudi Arabia's defense minister, Prince Sultan, seemed to suggest that Kuwait might be wise to cede Baghdad some disputed territory as part of an arrangement to get Iraqi troops to pull out, Bush said, "I am more determined than ever to see that this invading dictator gets out of Kuwait with no compromise of any kind whatsoever."
Earlier in the day, the president also used a campaign stop in Burlington, Vt., to quash any suggestions of offering the Iraqi leader a face-saving way out. The Iraqi army's actions in Kuwait are "crimes against humanity," he said, and "there can never be compromise, any compromise, with this kind of aggression."
"It isn't oil that we're concerned about, it is aggression, and this aggression is not going to stand," he added.
Saudi backs off remarks
The Saudi defense minister said comments he made about the gulf crisis had been misinterpreted as being conciliatory. The official again demanded Iraq withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait.
The official Saudi Press Agency quoted Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul Aziz as saying in an "explanation" Monday that reports contained "wrong interpretations . . . and a clear distortion of what was meant."
The Bush administration also contacted Riyadh about the remarks and said it had been assured there was no change in Saudi Arabia's stance on the gulf crisis.
Prince Sultan, addressing Arab journalists in Riyadh Sunday, said Arab states were ready to grant Iraq "all its rights" and that Saudi Arabia "sees no harm in any Arab country giving its Arab sister land a site or a position on the sea."
The news agency released the full text of Prince Sultan's remarks, which confirmed earlier reports of the meeting. It quoted the prince as saying that "if Iraq has any rights we will all meet them."
Watkins blasts 1980s policies
Americans must come to grips with reality and realize they will remain dependent on fossil and nuclear fuels if "they want 2.7 cars per family," Energy Secretary James Watkins said Tuesday.
"Americans believe they have an inalienable right to gasoline at $1.10 or less a gallon," he said.
Cheap oil during most of the 1980s allowed the government to become "complacent too quickly" about looking for new sources of energy, he said, adding it was time to develop fusion energy.
_ Information from the New York Times, Reuters and Scripps Howard was used in this report.