Strong signs emerged Saturday that Secretary of State James A. Baker III, after a remarkable diplomatic odyssey that ended at Los Angeles International Airport, will present a U.S. resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq to the U.N. Security Council this week, probably Thursday.
Despite noncommittal stands by two nations he consulted Saturday--Colombians in Bogota and Malaysians at the airport--the Bush Administration feels confident that the measure will receive at least the necessary nine votes in the 15-nation council, and no vetoes from any of the five permanent member nations.
By unofficial tabulation, seven members of the council appear committed to vote for the resolution and five nations, including the Soviet Union are likely to support it as well. The remaining three--Cuba, Yemen and Malaysia--are expected either to vote against it or abstain.
Baker has covered five continents in five grueling days in quest of support for the resolution, which would authorize a 25-nation coalition with military forces in the Persian Gulf region to use them to implement the 10 U.N. resolutions that demand Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.
From the sophisticated hotels of Paris last Tuesday to the parched lands of Yemen on Thanksgiving to the verdant heights of Colombia on Saturday, Baker has argued in person to all but one of the council members that Iraq's aggression against Kuwait must be reversed with force if peaceful diplomatic means continue to show no results. Only Cuba had not yet been consulted on the new resolution.
Cuba has been the only council member to vote against any resolution so far. It did so only once, although it abstained on four other measures. Yemen, the only Arab nation on the council, has abstained five times. All other members have voted for all of the resolutions.
Virtually all nations consulted by Baker have emphasized their preference for a peaceful solution to the gulf crisis, as has Baker himself in presenting the U.S. view. His remarks at a press conference in Bogota reflected the case he has been making throughout.
"We strongly prefer a peaceful and political resolution of this crisis," he declared. "But perhaps the best way to achieve it is for us not to rule out the option of force. It may be the only thing (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein understands . . . and if it (force) is to be a credible option, we must lay the appropriate military and political foundations for it," through a buildup of forces and a U.N. resolution authorizing their use.
The response of Colombian Foreign Minister Luis Fernando Jaramillo was also typical of the stand of the smaller non-permanent members of the council, including Finland and Ivory Coast, which have not openly committed themselves to the American case so far but who seem inclined to do so.
"Colombia really stands for peaceful solutions of conflicts," Jaramillo said. "But Colombia cannot accept the fact that, through force, a party has violated international order."
In Los Angeles, Baker met Malaysian Foreign Minister Abu Hassan Omar, who had flown here from Kuala Lumpur. Both used identical language to describe "a very good" meeting.
Abu said his country's Cabinet and other officials will meet at midweek to decide on the U.S. proposal. He said that he and Baker "discussed it as equals," and he said of Malaysia, "We are good friends of the Arab countries, both sides--Saudi and Iraq."
U.S. officials are confident of Soviet support, and probably that of China as well, in the forthcoming council debate. But the wording and timing of the resolution may be subject to bargaining among the five permanent members--the Soviet Union, China, Britain, France and the United States--as well as other members.
Current expectations are that the resolution will have two phases, the first calling for a final peace overture to Iraq to which Hussein must respond positively by a certain time. If the deadline passes without movement, the use-of-force provision would take effect.
Times staff writer Patt Morrison contributed to this story.