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Saudi King Fahd toughens talk against Iraqis

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has ordered an end to further conciliatory-sounding remarks to Iraq such as those made early this week by his brother, the Saudi defense minister. Apparently seeking to stop speculation about a possible shift in the Saudi position, King Fahd signaled a more hawkish stand on the Persian Gulf crisis when he said Wednesday there could be no compromise in the demand for total Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

His intervention was apparently prompted by U.S. concern about the defense minister's comments suggesting Saudi Arabia might make concessions to Iraq if Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait.

King Fahd, in his statement Wednesday, stressed that Saudi demands for an Iraqi withdrawal "are not subject to bargaining or misinterpretations" and that "any understandings or predictions that fall outside those clear parameters" emanating from any individuals "or are yet to be uttered in the future" are "untrue and should be paid no attention at all."

The king's remarks, which one official described as "practically a countdown to war," appeared intended not only to reassure foreign allies of Saudi Arabia, including the United States and Egypt, about Saudi positions on Iraq, but also to signal to the Saudi people that if war breaks out, hard times may follow.

Departing from the usually ambiguous phraseology that characterizes most Saudi pronouncements, the king's statement affirmed in clear language Saudi Arabia's determination that "invading Iraqi troops must withdraw unconditionally and immediately from all Kuwaiti territory, where the legitimate authority must be reinstituted" in the person of the Emir of Kuwait and the ruling Sabah family.

The White House, meanwhile, announced Friday that Secretary of State James Baker will soon visit Saudi Arabia to review the crisis. Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater denied Baker would ask the Saudis for permission to attack Iraq if necessary.

Fitzwater said he had no dates for the Baker visit.

Nakasone to visit Baghdad

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said Friday that he has accepted an invitation from Iraq to visit Baghdad next week to discuss the Middle East crisis with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seek release of hostages still held there.

Diplomats and other politicians in Japan were worried that the 72-year-old political veteran might be playing into Hussein's hands.

The Iraqi president has been trying to woo leaders and ex-leaders to negotiate with him in an effort to undermine the international alliance opposing Iraq.

Former British Prime Minister Edward Heath visited Iraq this week and returned with 38 freed British hostages. Austrian President Kurt Waldheim made a similar trip with similar results.

There are at least 139 Japanese hostages still in Iraq, according to the Foreign Ministry, and their fate gets significant press attention here.

Nakasone said he will ask Hussein to return all hostages in Iraq, not just the Japanese. But he noted he had received letters from Japanese hostages in Iraq and their families here asking him to intervene.

"I feel some kind of destiny here," Nakasone said. "I thought Japan should not any longer take an outsider position."

Two more Americans seized

Iraqi troops have seized two Americans who had been hiding in Kuwait to avoid capture, Western diplomats disclosed Friday.

John Stevenson, 44, of Panama City, Fla., and Uwe Jahnke, 47, of Washington Depot, Conn., were brought to Baghdad on Oct. 22, a day after their arrest in Kuwait, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said the pair was taken to the government-run Mansour-Melia Hotel, where scores of other foreigners are being held.

Baghdad has refused to allow thousands of foreigners trapped by Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait to leave. Foreign women and children were eventually allowed to depart, and some men were released at the intervention of officials from their governments.

But hundreds of others, including more than 100 Americans, were sent to strategic installations to deter a possible attack by U.S.-led multinational forces that assembled in Saudi Arabia after the invasion.

Western diplomats were allowed access to the recently captured Americans, they said.

"They're obviously upset at being held by the Iraqi authorities but otherwise they're just fine," one diplomat said.

The sources said Jahnke had worked with an investment company in Kuwait and Stevenson was an employee of the Bank of Kuwait.

The two were seized by Iraqi soldiers at an apartment where they had been hiding in Kuwait City, the diplomats said.

Jordan obeying sanctions

The United States said Friday that Jordan was complying fully with international sanctions against Iraq and deserved Western aid while a senior Jordanian finance official said his country had almost run out of foreign exchange.

Jordanian Central Bank deputy governor Michel Marto said his country had serious economic difficulties because of the gulf crisis. He said Jordan had not yet received any of the funds pledged by the West to help it weather the crisis, apart from a small amount to help pay for the influx of refugees from Iraq.

Jordan has been hit harder by the crisis than any other country with the exceptions of Kuwait and Iraq. Its economy was closely entwined with that of Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait.

The United States was initially annoyed with Jordan's King Hussein when the Gulf crisis erupted for what it saw as his hesitation in backing United Nations sanctions and his effort to broker an Arab solution to the conflict.

_ Information from the New York Times, Los Angles Times and Reuters was used in this report.