U.N. Gives Iraq Until Jan. 15 to Leave Kuwait or Face War : Gulf crisis: Historic measure passes 12 to 2, with China abstaining. It is only the second time the Security Council has voted to use military force.


In a historic vote, the U.N. Security Council on Thursday authorized war to oust Iraq from Kuwait.

It was only the second time since the United Nations was founded in 1945 that members of the world body voted to use military force.

But unlike measures adopted at the start of the Korean War recommending the immediate commitment of troops, Thursday’s resolution gives Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at least until Jan. 15 to withdraw his forces from Kuwait. The council passed the measure by a vote of 12 to 2, with China abstaining.

The six-week cooling-off period is certain to feature intensive diplomacy, which will reach a crescendo as the deadline nears. After Jan. 15, war will not automatically follow. Although the resolution allows military force as an option, it does not require it.

The Security Council chamber was packed to overflowing, the hallways outside jammed with reporters, when the 15 council members--represented by two ambassadors and 13 even more senior foreign ministers--cast their ballots.


Precisely at 5:27 p.m. EST, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, in his capacity as the council’s president, a post he holds this month, called for the vote.

“Will those in favor of the draft resolution please raise their hands,” Baker said in a firm voice.

Twelve nations signaled approval.

“Those opposed or against,” Baker asked. As expected, Cuba and Yemen voted in the negative.


China abstained.

China, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council--the others are the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union--has the power to veto a measure before the council.

Just before the vote, Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen had said he could not vote in favor of the resolution because it provided for military force.

The resolution was passed by the smallest margin of any of the 10 anti-Iraq measures adopted since Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2. Several of the previous measures were passed unanimously; others were approved 13-2.

The latest resolution found Iraq “in flagrant contempt of the council” for ignoring previous measures, which included strict demands for an immediate withdrawal from Kuwait, a trade and air embargo and the release of all hostages.

It authorized member states to “use all necessary means” to implement the withdrawal of Iraq’s troops and “to restore international peace and security in the area.”

“We have a chance to make this Security Council and the United Nations true institutions for peace and justice around the globe,” Baker said as he convened the meeting. “We must not let the U.N. go the way of the League of Nations.

“Today’s vote marks a watershed in the history of the United Nations,” he said after the balloting--speaking as secretary of state, not as the council’s president.

“A dangerous man has committed a blatant act of aggression in a vital region at a critical moment in history.

”. . . If he (Hussein) should come to dominate the resources of the gulf, his ambitions will threaten all of us here and the economic well-being of all nations,” Baker said.

“If Iraq should emerge from this conflict with territory or treasure or political advantage, then the lesson will be clear: aggression pays.”

The secretary of state, who later was to characterize the moment as “the hinge of history,” said: ". . . Members of the council, we are at a crossroads. Today, we show Saddam that the sign marked ‘Peace’ is the direction he should take.”

“We have been faced with the first extremely grave test of the post-Cold War era, and we are coping with it,” said Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.

Shevardnadze said the delay until Jan. 15 is “one last sincere chance to give common sense a chance to work or, if you will, for the instinct of self-preservation to come into play.”

Later, in the hallway outside the council, standing before a tapestry of Picasso’s “Guernica” mural depicting the horrors of war, the Soviet foreign minister underscored his warning.

“As for face-saving, there is no longer this question,” Shevardnadze said. “He (Saddam Hussein) now has to save his people, his country. He has to save the world. He has to save peace in the region and global peace.”

The foreign minister said that memories of the Soviet Union’s 1980-89 involvement in Afghanistan and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 for the time being mitigated against the Soviet Union sending forces to join the troops in the desert.

But he sternly warned that if Iraq attacks Soviet citizens, his nation could act swiftly to employ military force.

Speaking before the vote, Iraq’s U.N. ambassador, Abdul Amir Anbari, delivered a half-hour diatribe against the United States, accusing the Bush Administration of organizing a “malicious, brutal and aggressive policy” against his nation.

“Peace is our goal,” the Iraqi delegate said. “We work for it. We desire it. If war is imposed upon us by the United States, this will be our destiny.”

Anbari pledged that the Iraqi people would defend themselves “against injustice and tyranny.”

Before the meeting, as he entered the U.N. building, the Iraqi used much stronger language.

“If attacked, we’ll never surrender,” he told reporters.

Yet for all the stress on the threat of war, many delegates told the Security Council that they saw Resolution 678 as an opportunity for peace.

“It is not yet too late to solve this peacefully,” said Canadian External Affairs Secretary Joe Clark. “We have offered the government of Iraq a pause for good will.

”. . . The choice between peace and war is now in the hands of Iraq.”

Malaysia’s foreign minister also cautioned prudence.

“Malaysia warns against any action that would lead to the virtual destruction of Iraq,” Abu Hassan Bin Haji Omar said, stressing that any military action should not go beyond the liberation of Kuwait.

Canada and Malaysia joined the United States, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Romania, the Soviet Union, Britain, and Zaire in voting for the resolution.

Cuba and Yemen voted against it.

“The Security Council has taken a decision of immense portent,” said U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. “I would like to stress that, even on the most stringent reading, the resolution just adopted envisages at least 45 days of earnest effort to achieve a peaceful solution of the crisis.”

Under gray skies, caravans of foreign ministers converged on the U.N. building earlier in the day. As the diplomats entered the Security Council, buses of schoolchildren also arrived to take tours of the world organization, where guides extol the virtues of peace and humanitarian aid.

In fighting for passage of 678, Baker lobbied up to the last minute, to the doors of the council chamber. In a final blitz, he met with the foreign ministers of the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, Britain, Ethiopia, Finland, France and Canada.

In the last two weeks, he traveled from the Middle East to Europe to South America to meet with officials of all the 14 other nations on the council.

As part of the lobbying process, Cuba and China were granted high-level contact with the United States that they had been denied previously. Baker’s meeting with the Cuban foreign minister in New York was the first publicly acknowledged high-level contact in more than 30 years.

Foreign Minister Qian will visit Washington today, becoming the first senior Chinese official to be invited to the capital since the Tian An Men Square massacre in June, 1989.

In explaining his decision to abstain rather than approve the crucial resolution, Qian said before the vote, “The Chinese delegation has difficulty in voting for this resolution because it authorized the use of force.”

His nation, Qian said, had voted for previous resolutions against Iraq because “although the sanctions are severe, they fall outside of the use of force.

“China will not cast its veto on this draft resolution either,” he added.

A disappointed Bush Administration official said Thursday night that China had missed a chance to improve its strained relations with the United States when it voted to abstain. U.S. officials had sought to persuade China to join with the other four permanent members of the council in supporting the use of force.

“We’d hoped for more,” said this official. “They (Chinese officials) have lost another opportunity here to try to improve their image in this country, to try to show that they shared certain values with the rest of the international community.”

It was not clear whether Foreign Minister Qian, who flew from Beijing to New York City on Wednesday, had asked Baker for further concessions in U.S. policy toward China on the eve of the U.N. vote.

Earlier this week, the Administration eased its restrictions on high-level contacts between U.S. and Chinese officials in order to permit Qian to visit Washington today. The Beijing government has also been urging the Bush Administration to lift its restrictions on World Bank loans to China and on U.S. military and technology sales to China.

Chinese officials have repeatedly said they favor an Arab solution to the gulf crisis and oppose the use of force by superpowers in the Mideast.

In contrast to the Korean War resolutions which were adopted in June, 1950, and which spoke openly of military force, the latest Persian Gulf resolution adopts the euphemism “all necessary means” to avoid the word war.

In 1950, the Security Council authorized military action within days of North Korea’s invasion of South Korea--a vote made possible only because the Soviet Union, which would have vetoed the measure, was boycotting the United Nations.

By contrast, Thursday’s use-of-force resolution came months after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and after numerous attempts by the Security Council to persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw.

Zaire will hold the Security Council’s presidency on Jan. 15, when the resolution’s ultimatum expires.

In the pre-vote debate Thursday, Kuwait spoke first. The foreign minister of the exiled government, Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah, told the council that so far the prospects were not good for peace and “war is the only avenue to insure restoration of our rights.”

Reviewing the council’s previous resolutions, Sabah added, “All of these efforts ran against a stone wall of intransigence.”

Also speaking before the vote, Yemen--the only Arab member of the Security Council--urged the council to give more time for existing economic sanctions to have an effect on Iraq.

Yemen’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalla Ashtal, said the resolution authorizing force “is so broad and vague” that it is not limited to enforcement of previous resolutions.

“In the annals of the United Nations, it will be remembered as the war resolution,” he said. ". . . It looks like patience is a rare commodity these days.”

Colombian Foreign Minister Luis Fernando Jaramillo told the council that “this pause of good will must not be misinterpreted by Saddam Hussein.”

The Colombian diplomat said if Iraq ignores the moratorium on the use of force, it must bear all the responsibility for what happens next.

Cuba said the invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq should be condemned, but it opposed “a resolution that constitutes a virtual declaring of war.”

In his remarks to the council, Baker said the military pause until Jan. 15 will be observed unless Iraq uses chemical or biological weapons or abuses any of its hundreds of foreign hostages.


It has been 40 years since the U.N. Security Council last sanctioned the use of force against a renegade nation. That was in June, 1950 after North Korea invaded South Korea, prompting a U.S.-led call for U.N. intervention. The Soviet Union was boycotting Security Council sessions to protest the seating of China’s Nationalist government, when a hurriedly prepared resolution allowing use of force against North Korea was adopted. The war was to last three years and cost America more than 50,000 dead and 100,000 wounded.

Times staff writer Jim Mann in Washington contributed to this article.


This is the text of the Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force if Iraq does not withdraw from Kuwait before Jan. 15, 1991 :

The Security Council, recalling and reaffirming its Resolutions 660 (1990), 661 (1990), 662 (1990), 664 (1990), 665 (1990), 666 (1990), 667 (1990), 669 (1990), 670 (1990), 674 (1990) and 677 (1990),

Noting that, despite all efforts by the United Nations, Iraq refuses to comply with its obligation to implement Resolution 660 (1990) and the above subsequent relevant resolutions, in flagrant contempt of the council,

Mindful of its duties and responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance and preservation of international peace and security,

Determined to secure full compliance with its decisions,

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations:

1. DEMANDS that Iraq comply fully with resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and decides, while maintaining all its decisions, to allow Iraq one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwill, to do so;

2. AUTHORIZES member states cooperating with the government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 Jan. 1991 fully implements, as set forth in Paragraph 1 above, the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement Security Council resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area;

3. REQUESTS all states to provide appropriate support for the actions undertaken in pursuance of Paragraph 2 of this resolution;

4. REQUESTS the states concerned to keep the council regularly informed on the progress of actions undertaken pursuant to Paragraphs 2 and 3 of this resolution;

5. DECIDES to remain seized of the matter.