BERLIN -- European and North American leaders agreed yesterday on new measures to solve potential conflicts, such as the threatening clashes in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.
At the same meeting:
* British and U.S. officials announced details of a military strike force to help the Kurds in northern Iraq.
"Poised Hammer" would see allied troops and air power retreat to Turkey but remain on the alert should Iraqi President Saddam Hussein threaten the Kurds again. The idea would be to turn over Kurdish territory to United Nations guards but remain close to the area so that the Kurds would feel secure enough to stay and not flee again to the mountains.
"It would enable the withdrawal of coalition forces in circumstances that do not re-create the problem that we went in to solve," British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said.
* Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh said they failed to resolve remaining differences on a START treaty slashing strategic nuclear arms.
Mr. Baker said at a news conference with Mr. Bessmertnykh that they had made some progress and would send senior officials to Geneva next week to intensify negotiations on the pact.
"We think we can close all the outstanding issues in the coming weeks," Mr. Bessmertnykh said.
Mr. Baker said that President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev still hoped to sign a START treaty at a summit, but he declined to speculate whether a summit would take place this summer.
The talks came during a council of 35 foreign ministers representing all European countries -- including the Soviet Union -- and the United States and Canada.
In what most diplomats said was a landmark meeting, the ministers agreed to strengthen the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe -- a former East-West debating forum that they are turning into an organization to defuse some of Europe's explosive conflicts.
"I now see a new quality to the CSCE. It has the authority to act should conflicts arise," German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said.
The most concrete step was to agree on a controversial proposal that would allow the CSCE to step into a crisis without the usual consensus of all 35 members. Only 13 members would have to agree that a situation "endangering peace" existed for the organization to call an emergency session that could send negotiators to the trouble spot quickly.
"It is a way to get people to the negotiating table pronto," said Barbara McDougall, Canada's foreign minister.
Mr. Genscher pointed out that although the Cold War and the East-West military standoff had ended, Europe was not free of serious conflicts. Old ethnic struggles, as in Yugoslavia, and calls for independence, as in the Soviet Union, require the services of an organization that can move quickly, he said.
"The CSCE now can act in a crisis. This adds a new dimension to European security," said Mr. Genscher, who chaired the meeting.
Mr. Genscher said the CSCE would not try to replace U.S.-European military alliances, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but complement them. As the only organization that includes all European countries as well as Canada and the United States, it is the only body that connects North America with both halves of Europe, he said.
Another factor in the CSCE's development was the disintegration of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact.
"There are differing feelings of security in Europe. In the West you feel very secure, but we in the East do not feel secure at all. We feel cast adrift. A stronger CSCE can help address this," said Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski.
Despite the success in helping to bind Eastern and Western Europe, the stronger CSCE will face a stiff test in the coming months as Yugoslavia's republics strengthen calls for independence, threating a military showdown. A U.S. diplomat said the fact that the CSCE was bound to non-interference in countries' internal matters might mean that it could not step in forcefully enough to tackle one of Europe's oldest nationality conflicts.
"This whole plan to make CSCE a mechanism for solving conflicts might have success in the long run, but if it fails in Yugoslavia, it might become discredited before it even gets off the ground," he said.
Mr. Baker heads today for Albania, the newest member of the CSCE.
He can expect a hero's welcome when he arrives in the tiny
country of 3 million, which was virtually cut off from the outside world during 45 years of hard-line Communist rule.
On street corners of the capital, Tirana, groups of youngsters discussed whether they would be able to lift Mr. Baker's car onto their shoulders and carry it in triumph through the center of the city.
Diplomatic ties with Washington were restored in March after a 50-year break.