Secretary of State James A. Baker III announced Saturday night that the United States will go to the United Nations this week for a new use-of-force resolution against Iraq which will specify a deadline by which Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait or face the military might of the U.S.-led forces in the Persian Gulf.
Consideration of the resolution is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday with a formal vote by the 15-nation council coming Thursday or Friday, Baker said in an airborne interview with the Los Angeles Times and Reuters news agency at the end of his remarkable, five-continents-in-five-days diplomatic odyssey to consult on the issue.
Baker refused to speculate on the outcome of the vote in the council, where nine yes votes and no vetoes are required for passage. U.S. officials have said that they would not propose a resolution "unless it had a reasonable chance of success."
But a senior U.S. official traveling with Baker said "the secretary is under no illusions on this. We are in for a very tough fight."
Unofficial tabulations indicated that seven nations have committed themselves publicly to vote for such a move, with another five--including the Soviets--likely to go along. Cuba and Yemen, which is the sole Arab state on the council, were most likely to abstain or vote against the resolution.
Baker spoke with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze for a half hour before arriving in Bogota, Colombia, Saturday morning en route from a visit to Yemen and Saudi Arabia. All indications are that Moscow will support the U.S. overture and that China, whose foreign minister consulted this weekend with Shevardnadze, will also go along.
He also spoke by phone with French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas after leaving Colombia en route to Los Angeles, where he met the Malaysian foreign minister briefly at Los Angeles International Airport.
The official U.S. two-paragraph announcement, released on the final leg of Baker's grueling trip, said the United States as Security Council president this month is inviting its members' foreign ministers to a meeting in New York on Thursday.
"At that time, we will consider what additional steps the council might take to achieve implementation of the 10 resolutions already adopted (by the Council) in response to Iraq's unprovoked invasion and continuing occupation of Kuwait."
"Those actions must be implemented," the statement declared. "Our determination to ensure their implementation should demonstrate to Saddam Hussein the need to resolve this crisis peacefully and promptly."
In the interview, Baker said the council would consider "a resolution that would authorize the use of all necessary means to implement the council's prior resolutions."
The U.S. draft resolution, which will be distributed among members on Monday, appears to propose a two-step procedure. Iraq would first be given a de facto ultimatum to withdraw, after which the use-of-force provisions would come into effect.
"The council will want to explore a resolution that would make very clear that member states could utilize all necessary means (i.e., use of force) after a certain date to implement the prior resolutions," Baker said. "And the clear message of such a resolution to Saddam Hussein will be that there is still a chance to resolve the matter peacefully within the time frame."
Baker declined to say what time frame the United States would propose, whether weeks or months after adoption of the measure. "Further discussions" will be held with council members on the point, he said, confirming reports that some members, including the Soviet Union, have views different from the Bush Administration on the deadline.
Indications were that the United States wanted a shorter period in order to bring pressure on Iraq earlier, while other nations wanted more time for sanctions to bite.
More broadly, "considerable debate" was expected on the resolution, Baker said, even though he has consulted personally with the foreign ministers of all council members except Cuba in the past three weeks. Whether he or an aide will discuss the resolution with the Cubans has not been decided, he indicated.
Earlier, his consultations with the Colombians in Bogota and the Malaysians in Los Angeles produced non-committal responses.
Virtually all states consulted by Baker have emphasized the preference for a peaceful solution, 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.
Although the United Nations has called for Iraq's unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, Baker said, "so far we see no withdrawal and in fact, no inclination of Saddam Hussein to withdraw. It is important to the United Nations and the international community that U.N. resolutions be implemented," particularly in halting aggression of larger nations against smaller ones, he said.
"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 the use of force. It may be the only thing that Saddam Hussein understands . . . and if it (force) is to be a credible option, we must lay the appropriate military and political foundations for it," both through a buildup of military forces and a U.N. resolution authorizing their use.
Baker dodged a question on whether the United States might use force unilaterally if it failed to get U.N. approval for the coming resolution. "We would much prefer," he said, "to look to it (implementing past resolutions) through the U.N. Security Council."
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 to the American case so far but which 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 the unofficial tabulation of votes for the U.S. resolution, the certain ayes are those of the United States, France, Britain, Zaire, Ethiopia, Romania, and Canada.
In the likely column are the Soviet Union, China, Colombia, Finland and Ivory Coast.