Twenty-five Americans were among nearly 300 Western women and children to arrive here Tuesday from Baghdad on three Iraqi Airways planes.
The last flight to arrive just before midnight (5 p.m. EDT) brought 150 people, including the 25 Americans, 44 French, 36 British, four Australians and two Canadian women and children. They had been detained in Iraq and Kuwait since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait Aug. 2.This flight carried out what is believed to be the last batch of Americans in Baghdad who are eligible and willing to depart.
``We've got most everybody who is urgently desirous of leaving,' said a diplomat at the airport.
There was discussion about chartering another Iraqi Airways plane to ferry American women and children out of Kuwait. The goal was a direct flight from Kuwait to Amman, but evacuees first may be required to come to Baghdad to process exit papers.
About 1,400 of the 2,000 Americans in Kuwait are believed to be women and children eligible to leave.
One of the flights that arrived earlier in the day included 135 West Germans among its passengers, and the other brought 170 people, mainly Arab nationals.
A total of 175 Western nationals were expected to leave Amman early Wednesday aboard a Virgin Atlantic airlines jumbo jet.
The jumbo had landed in Amman a few hours earlier with 30 tons of food and other supplies for the tens of thousands of Asian evacuees from Kuwait stranded in squalid camps in Jordan.
``We heard there was a potentially catastrophic problem in Jordan with young and old people dying, and we had to do something before it was too late,' said Richard Branson, the British owner of the airline who flew in on the jet.
Shortly after his arrival, Branson and his crew were thanked by Jordan's American-born wife, Queen Noor, who went aboard the plane.
``We are grateful; we desperately need all this,' the queen told Branson, pointing at sacks of wheat slung on top of the scarlet first-class seats aboard the plane.
Branson said later he ``was upset' because he made 200 seats available to one Asian embassy to fly evacuees out of Amman, but a bureaucratic problem meant the seats went unused.
He said he had provided the United Nations with a list of airlines and planes available for charter for a massive airlift to fly home the estimated 100,000 impoverished Asian nationals stranded in Jordan.
Mothers emerged from the planes with sleeping infants and shouldering older children who looked confused.
Asked what he thought of Baghdad, American Taleb Subah said, ``Better than Kuwait, I tell you that.'
``Kuwait was a living hell,' said the Davenport, Iowa, teenager. ``You go to sleep on bombing and you wake up to it. ... It is like Vietnam. I saw dead people all over; they throw them in the trash.'
Most people were taken directly from the arriving airliners to the VIP lounge at the Queen Alia airport, where counselors and diplomats talked to them.
Asked if she had been afraid, Sheila Russell, from Northampton, England, said, ``I never saw an angry man.'
But when asked if she was happy to leave, she answered, ``I left my husband behind.'
Another British woman, Belinda Quinn, seemed overjoyed at her release. She said, ``I kept thinking every minute that the plane (departure) will be canceled.'
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said last week he would allow Western women and children to leave, but not the men. More than 700 Western detainees - women, children and a few ailing men - left aboard two Iraqi Airways flights Saturday. Some evacuees also have traveled across the desert to Jordan.
But the departures of others have been complicated by Iraq's refusal to allow foreign airlines to land in Baghdad and by long delays in processing their exit permits. About 11,000 Westerners are now believed stranded in Kuwait and Iraq.
Earlier Tuesday, hundreds more Westerners headed across the desert in buses hoping they too would be able to catch flights from Baghdad to freedom.
The bus convoy, carrying about 300 Britons, left occupied Kuwait at about 5:25 a.m. Tuesday and was headed for the Iraqi capital.
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd told reporters in Saudi Arabia that 148 women and 150 children were on the 500-mile trip, traveling in a convoy of seven buses and a car. In London, a Foreign Office spokesman put the figure at 150 women and 156 children.