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King Fahd says Saudis won't bargain with Iraq

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, apparently seeking to stop speculation about a softening of Saudi resolve in the Persian Gulf crisis, has signaled a hawkish stand. The king said in a statement late Wednesday Saudi demands for an Iraqi withdrawal "are not subject to bargaining or misinterpretations" and any statements to the contrary are untrue.

One Saudi official said the king's remarks were "practically a countdown to war."

For those reading between the lines, another announcement _ that Secretary of State James Baker will soon visit Saudi Arabia _ prompted speculation the United States was preparing to ask the Saudis for permission to attack Iraq if necessary.

Pentagon officials said Thursday the United States was considering sending as many as 100,000 more troops to the gulf, a move officials said would put the U.S.-led gulf force in an offensive posture.

The White House denied Baker had any such plans.

With all the talk of war, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said he accepted an invitation to discuss the crisis with President Saddam Hussein.

He said he felt a particular obligation to seek the release of foreign hostages in Iraq, including at least 139 Japanese still there.

"I thought Japan should not any longer take an outsider position," he said.