WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III embarks this weekend on a new series of consultations to draw support for a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of military force, if necessary, to drive Iraq from Kuwait.
The effort comes amid continued division even among coalition partners over whether United Nations sanctions can work and how long to give them, and over when and how to go to war if they fail.
The State Department said yesterday Mr. Baker would be meeting the foreign ministers of Zaire, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast in Geneva Saturday after sessions with the European Community tomorrow in Brussels, Belgium.
On Sunday he is to meet with the foreign ministers of Romania, Finland, the Soviet Union and Britain. And after accompanying President Bush to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Baker is scheduled to travel to Colombia to meet President Cesar Gaviria and Foreign Minster Jaramillo Correa.
The three African nations are part of the non-aligned bloc of nations in the U.N. Security Council, but they have been more supportive of the allied stance against Iraq than have three others -- Colombia, Cuba and Yemen.
The Bush administration is under strong pressure internationally and from members of Congress to gain U.N. authorization before launching a military offensive to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
The United States and Britain maintain that such action would be legal without additional authorization, but they want to avoid any split in the international coalition against Iraq.
Mr. Baker said yesterday that he would "continue to consult very care fully with members of our coalition, as well as with members -- member states of the Security Council. And I am looking forward to continuing that this Saturday and Sunday in Europe. And I particularly want to have an opportunity to talk to my counterpart foreign ministers from Zaire, from Cote d'Ivoire and from Ethiopia."
He said there were "differing views on the part of some of our coalition partners" whether sanctions would work.
A key issue is how to win U.N. authorization for military action without having restrictions imposed on U.S. military flexibility.
An administration official said Mr. Baker hopes to achieve a consensus on a use-of-force resolution in time to have it approved by the Security Council this month, when the United States has some procedural advantages gained from presiding over the body.