Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze agreed Wednesday to redouble U.S.-Soviet efforts to "tighten the noose on Saddam Hussein," a senior U.S. official said.
Baker and Shevardnadze spent about half of their four-hour meeting discussing the Persian Gulf crisis, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the Washington-Moscow solidarity in opposition to the Iraqi president's invasion of Kuwait.
The senior official said the two men considered additional economic steps to increase the pressure on Iraq but did not talk about possible military action. The official provided no indication of what the additional economic measures might entail.
Significantly, all of the economic measures that were suggested after President Bush's Helsinki summit meeting with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev earlier this month were imposed by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Baker scornfully rejected an Iraqi demand that the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait provide the Baghdad authorities with the names of American citizens who have taken refuge there and expel all non-diplomats from the premises.
Baker said the Iraqi demand "falls under the heading . . . of the three R's: We've read it, it's repugnant and we reject it." He said the U.S. government has no intention of naming the individuals hiding in the embassy building.
Baker confirmed that Iraq has threatened to hang any American diplomats found harboring Americans who have gone into hiding to escape Iraq's roundup of foreign men. The Baghdad government issued a similar threat of execution earlier to Kuwaitis found to be giving shelter to foreigners. So far, there is no indication that any of the threats have been carried out.
Asked if the latest Iraqi demand would affect U.S. policy of providing haven for non-diplomats in Kuwait, Baker said: "Having rejected it, I think you would conclude that it doesn't affect the policy approach that the United States is following."
The Iraqi government claims that the embassies in Kuwait have lost their diplomatic immunity because of Iraq's claim to have annexed the oil-rich emirate.
The continuing crisis in the gulf overshadowed arms control, the usual staple of U.S.-Soviet negotiations. The senior official said Baker and Shevardnadze discussed both the conventional forces in Europe and the strategic arms reduction negotiations but made very little progress.
The official said that only about an hour was devoted to the topic, and "they simply ran out of time." He said Baker and Shevardnadze will meet at least once more before Shevardnadze returns home, and they hope to make some progress on arms control at that time.
Arms control has been an issue without a home for weeks. Bush and Gorbachev hardly discussed the matter at Helsinki, announcing that Baker and Shevardnadze would go into it when they met a few days later in Moscow. When the topic was also given short shrift at the Moscow meeting, officials said it would come up at the United Nations.
"I wouldn't characterize the meeting as making any progress per se," the senior U.S. official said. He said Baker and Shevardnadze had time to do little more than review their position.
The official said that U.S. and Soviet arms control negotiators are meeting in New York to narrow technical differences before Baker and Shevardnadze meet again, probably next week.
The gulf crisis even intruded on the superpower arms control agenda. The official said Baker and Shevardnadze agreed that the two countries must give much greater emphasis to stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the ground-to-ground missile systems needed to deliver them.
Although Washington and Moscow have agreed on the desirability of non-proliferation measures in the past, the official said, the subject has now forced its way to the top of the agenda.
"This becomes the important arms control item for the '90s," the official said. "Iraq gives this a new emphasis because an Iraq with nuclear capability is unthinkable. But it is not just Iraq."