Bush pursues backing for gulf military action

November 19, 1990|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Sun Staff Correspondent Diana Jean Schemo of The Sun's Paris Bureau contributed to this article.

PARIS -- President Bush, arriving here last night for a 34-nation European summit, immediately went to work lining up support for a possible military strike against Iraq unless it withdraws from Kuwait.

At a private dinner with French President Francois Mitterrand, Mr. Bush was expected to secure his commitment to back a resolution authorizing the use of force that the United States hopes to have approved by the United Nations Security Council of this month.

France is one the five permanent members of the Security Council that have veto power, and Mr. Mitterrand has been one two holdouts on military force -- with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Presidential aides would not comment specifically on the outcome of the dinner. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft would say only that the two presidents had "good talks."

U.S. officials said after an earlier meeting between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas that they were confident of getting Mr. Mitterrand's backing for a resolution that would allow individual countries to take military action if they considered the economic sanctions against Iraq to have been ineffective.

Such a resolution, which would allow the United States the greatest flexibility, might be considered at a ministerial-level meeting of the Security Council members Nov. 30.

"As time passes, it allows us to measure the effects of the embargo," Mr. Dumas told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Baker. "But we should explore all the avenues, including the option of going back to the Security Council to see if new measures are required."

Lining up the votes for a U.N. resolution that would give greater force to the threat of military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a primary objective of Mr. Bush's three-day visit here.

He begins attending today a round of ceremonial functions, including the signing of a historic treaty drastically reducing stocks of conventional weapons in Europe.

President Bush and 33 other leaders will also open a summit of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where former adversaries of East and West Europe hope to start shaping a new era.

Perhaps his most important meeting will be with Mr. Gorbachev, whose backing for a U.N. resolution allowing force as a last resort has been especially difficult to secure.

Mr. Baker discussed the issue last night during a two-hour meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, but the secretary failed to get any commitment.

After the meeting, Mr. Shevardnadze told reporters: "I cannot say that we have reached any final decisions. We are engaged in very important and very necessary consultations at our level, and tomorrow these discussions will continue at the presidential level."

The president's task may have been complicated by Mr. Hussein's offer to release, beginning on Christmas Day, the Western hostages he has been holding since his Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait. He said all would be freed by March 25.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater dismissed the offer as another "cynical attempt to try to manipulate the families of the hostages for propaganda purposes."

The spokesman said he did not expect Mr. Hussein's offer to affect Mr. Bush's efforts.

"I think the allies are aware of his [Mr. Hussein's] tactics," he said. "He's used this time and time again."

But earlier, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl indicated he was less than enthusiastic about the war option.

"Anyone who believes this can be solved militarily must think of the end, not the beginning of the enterprise -- what the consequences would be, how many victims will there be, and won't a political solution still have to be found afterward, anyway," Mr. Kohl said during a radio interview shortly before Mr. Bush visted his Rhineland home.

While warning that he considered "the danger of war rising and not falling," Mr. Kohl said, "My urgent advice is that we exhaust all ways to negotiate that can be exhausted."

At a brief, rain-soaked news conference following their meetings, Mr. Bush and Mr. Kohl insisted they were still "in agreement," but they didn't talk much about details.

Mr. Bush said that the German leader "made very clear he'd like to see a peaceful resolution to this question, and so would I."

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