WAR IN THE GULF French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said Feb. 18 that the allied land offensive against Iraq was imminent and France has been informed of the date that has been set for the huge operation to begin, but the US Central Command in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, denied a date had been set.... Reports from correspondents along the front lines between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Kuwait sent back news of preparations rapidly being completed for one of the biggest land battles in half a century.... Allied bombers blasted central Baghdad through the night of Feb. 18 and on into the next day in some of the heaviest raids of the Gulf war.... Soviet spokesman Karen Karagezyan said Feb. 19 that Mikhail Gorbachev expects Baghdad to react to his peace proposal within two days (see story on page 1).... The US guided missile cruiser Princeton, which struck a mine in the northern Persian Gulf Feb. 18, has left its war station for repairs. The exploding ``influence'' mine cracked the superstructure above the deck of the warship. The US ship Tripoli also hit a mine on the same day.... US planes are destroying between 110 and 200 Iraqi tanks a day after changing their tactics and weapons to hit them in sand defenses, a senior US military source said Feb. 18 in Riyadh.
EUROPE AND THE SOVIET UNION
Hundreds of police and troops surrounded the university in Tirana Feb. 18 as Albanian students began a hunger strike to demand the removal of the name of the late Stalinist leader Enver Hoxha from the institute's official title, an opposition leader said in Vienna.... Irish Republican Army guerrillas, fighting to end British rule in Northern Ireland, claimed responsibility for London rail station blasts Feb. 18 which killed one man, injured 40 people, and caused unprecedented commuter disruption.... Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov said Feb. 18 his government planned to raise prices 60 percent on meat, milk, sugar, and transportation, but he claimed higher wages and welfare payments would compensate people for most increases. Individual republics will be allowed to set lower levels.
AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
Police in Johannesburg said Feb. 18 they planned to force an editor to testify about a report alleging a key missing witness in the trial of Winnie Mandela was kidnapped by South Africa's intelligence service. Die Patriot editor Z. B. du Toit may have to appear before a magistrate after he refused to give a statement to police investigating the newspaper's report.... Turkey's First Lady, Semra Ozal, wife of President Turgut Ozal, is seeking selection as Istanbul provincial chairperson of the Motherland Party. From that post she could theoretically run for parliament and contest the party leadership with Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut at Motherland's long-postponed national convention. She is getting as much publicity in Turkish newspapers as Saddam Hussein.... The Ethiopian government and rebels fighting for an independent Eritrea met in Washington Feb. 19 in an effort to end Africa's longest civil war.