U.S. is having trouble switching U.N. attention from Israel to Persian Gulf

October 22, 1990|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The United States is encountering difficulties shifting United Nations attention away from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and back to the Persian Gulf crisis, difficulties compounded by the Palestinian-Israeli violence that continued yesterday.

At best, the U.S.-led campaign to increase pressure on Iraq will have to share attention with the determination of a number of members of the U.N. Security Council to press for progress on the Palestinian dispute.

While debating a new anti-Iraq resolution, the Security Council is expected to continue pushing this week for an investigative mission to be dispatched to the occupied territories by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

The secretary-general reported Friday that he could not send the mission because Israel had refused to cooperate, but the Security Council refused to let the matter rest, diplomats said. Another resolution criticizing Israel was in prospect, although none has been formally proposed.

As the Security Council voted Oct. 12 to condemn Israel and endorse the secretary-general's mission, a number of U.N. envoys spoke of reaching beyond the cause of the deaths of 19 Palestinians on the Temple Mount to seek a solution to the Palestinian problem.

Although U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering stressed that the resolution did not address in any way the status of the peace process or change the role of the United Nations, others did not view it that way.

Ivory Coast's ambassador, N'ZiAnet, described the condemnation resolution as the first stage in the search for peace in the region.

Bagbeni Adeito Nzengeya of Zaire said that once the secretary-general reported back, a new stage of Security Council action could be envisaged.

Finland's ambassador said the secretary-general's mission would be an important step toward a solution of the Middle East problem, and Canada's ambassador said the resolution would advance the peace process.

French Ambassador Pierre-Louis Blanc looked toward the prospect that the Security Council itself would decide on measures to protect the Palestinians and described the resolution as an important first step toward a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Such statements clearly alarmed Israel, which now views even a mission sent by the secretary-general as a potential threat to its sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

But they also complicated the job of the United States in trying to hold together the coalition arrayed against Iraq and keep increasing the pressure with new U.N. measures.

While in New York two weeks ago, Secretary of State James A. Baker III took soundings among foreign leaders about the prospect of military action if U.N.-imposed sanctions fail to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The reaction, he said, was unexpectedly positive. But for now, the United States is pushing much milder steps.

In the coming week, the Security Council is expected to take up a resolution demanding that Iraq supply food, water and power to embassies under siege in Kuwait and authorize the secretary-general to assess what reparations Iraq owes.

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