U.N. approves air blockade of Iraq, Kuwait Security Council also warns Baghdad of military option

September 26, 1990|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Sun Staff Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Security Council expanded its blockade of Iraq to bar commercial air shipments last night and warned that military action may be in store.

Approved 14-1, Resolution 670 requires all countries to bar any Iraq-bound flights containing goods other than food needed for "humanitarian circumstances." It requires countries to deny overflight of any plane bound for Iraq or Kuwait without an inspection.

Only Cuba opposed the resolution.

The council also voted to consider action against any country that evades U.N. sanctions and called on nations to detain Iraqi ships used to violate the sanctions.

The council condemned Iraq's continued holding of foreign nationals against their will and its treatment of Kuwaitis, "including measures to force them to leave their own country and mistreatment of persons and property in Kuwait."

The action came in a rare session that drew foreign ministers from 13 out of 15 Security Council members, marking only the third meeting of the foreign ministers of all five permanent members.

It added "another brick to the international wall being erected against this aggressor," British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd said, an effort to tighten sanctions in pursuit of a peaceful end to the crisis.

But the council noted that Iraq's continued occupation of Kuwait "could lead to further serious action by the council under the Charter of the United Nations, including under Chapter VII." An article of the chapter allows "other operations by air, sea, or land forces of members of the United Nations."

The Security Council resolution left vague how the air embargo would be enforced, calling upon "all states to cooperate in taking such measures as may be necessary, consistent with international law," which bars shooting down civilian aircraft.

Speaker after speaker indicated that the patience of the Security Council, whose resolutions have been ignored by Iraq, is wearing thin.

Secretary of State James A. Baker III said, "The international TC community has made clear its desire to exhaust every peaceful possibility for resolving this matter in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

"But we are all well aware that the charter envisages the possibility of further individual and collective measures to defend against aggression and flagrant violations of international humanitarian law."

He said Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who chaired last night's meeting, "spoke for all of us" in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly earlier in the day.

Borrowing from the Soviet official's prepared text, Mr. Baker said, "We should remind those who regard aggression as an acceptable form of behavior that the United Nations has the power to suppress acts of aggres sion. There is ample evidence that this right can be exercised. It will be, if the illegal occupation of Kuwait continues."

Cuba, in opposition, said the resolution would draw the prospect of military conflict closer and argued that no evidence had been generated that the sanctions against trade with Iraq clearly were being violated.

Cuba, which often has been aligned with Yemen in opposing or abstaining on Security Council resolutions that squeezed Iraq, supported only one paragraph: reminding Iraq that it cannot continue to flout the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Yesterday's dramatic vote followed a tougher tone from the Soviets than has been evident in their past statements.

In his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Shevardnadze said that "an act of terrorism has been perpetrated against the emerging new world order" and warned, "War may break out in the gulf region any day, any moment."

While noting the United Nations' power to "suppress" aggression, Mr. Shevardnadze said that beforehand, "all political, peaceful, non-military forms of pressure must be applied to the aggressor, obviously in combination with economic and other enforcement measures."

Speaking in virtual synchronization with U.S. policy, he expressed hope for new regional security structures in Asia, the Middle East, Central America and elsewhere.

But he also called for a much stronger military structure for the United Nations.

He urged the United Nations to study the assignment of "national military contingents" to serve under the Security Council and said that "the Soviet Union is prepared to conclude an appropriate agreement with the Security Council."

If the U.N. military staff committee worked properly, he said, "there would be no need now for individual states to act unilaterally."

He suggested that the Security Council "establish a rapid response force to be formed on a contract basis from units specially designated by different countries," including the council's five permanent members. He also suggested that the council be assigned a group of psychologists, nuclear physicists, chemists, physicians, disaster relief workers and experts on combating terrorism.

Mr. Shevardnadze urged that international economic machinery, under the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, "mitigate the negative consequences of this crisis for countries which are in a particularly vulnerable position."

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