Opposition Labor Party backs Britain's military role in gulf but urges patience

October 04, 1990|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Sun Staff Correspondent

BLACKPOOL, England -- The opposition Labor Party backed Britain's military involvement in the Persian Gulf crisis yesterday but urged time for sanctions to work.

The party's leadership fought off a left-wing attempt at its annual conference to subject any use of British armed force against Iraq to the "explicit authorization" of the United Nations.

Labor favors international approval of the use of force, either through the U.N. Security Council or the U.N. military staff committee, but it does not want a formal U.N. resolution to be a precondition.

"We should not opt for one specific form of action which would tie the hands of the international community in circumstances we cannot foresee," said Gerald Kaufman, the party's foreign affairs spokesman. "What is vital is that action against Iraq should continue to carry the full authority of the international community.

"We must hope, we must pray, that sanctions work. Any Middle East war would not be a quick, clean strike."

Delegates voted 8-1 against the left-wing initiative, despite the assertion by Ken Cameron, leader of the firefighters' union, that "the story of the gulf is a tale of hypocrisy and greed."

"We do not apologize for making a plea for a peaceful solution," he said.

Delegate Gary Bansford said: "We have got to make a firm stand. I think we have got to reject the nonsense about America saving the world."

Dennis Canavan, a left-wing member of Parliament who recently traveled to Iraq in a vain effort to free British hostages, said that by requiring U.N. authorization for the use of force, the Labor Party could distance itself from "the Rambo-style military response of the American and British governments."

The party's leading opponent of using force in the gulf, Tony Benn, tried to speak during the debate but was not recognized from the platform despite his best efforts to attract the chairman's attention.

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