Excerpts from news conference held by Secretary of State James A. Baker III in Brussels, beginning with his opening remarks:

Saddam Hussein's wanton aggression has raised the stakes for all of us. Since 1949, every American president has reaffirmed that the gulf is a vital Western interest, and that we could not allow any hostile power to gain a stranglehold over its energy resources. Never historically has that threat been as real or as immediate as it is today.

Given the central importance of gulf oil to the global economy, we all share an interest in thwarting Iraq's menacing and unlimited ambitions. NATO's members also have a broader stake in the stability of the Middle East, an already violent neighborhood made worse by Iraqi bellicosity. Indeed, a strategic anchor of our alliance, Turkey, lies critically exposed along its southern borders to dangers aggravated by Iraq.

And finally, all of us share a deep interest, born of bitter experience, in demonstrating that aggression does not pay. The reaction to Iraq's threat from the international community, to which all of NATO's members have contributed in different ways has already been remarkable.

The United Nations Security Council has approved for the first time in 23 years mandatory sanctions under Chapter VII of the United Nations charter.

Comprehensive international sanctions are one crucial step towards stopping Iraqi aggression. Our work here today is another part of the answer.

I think that today's meeting was extremely useful. It demonstrated unmistakable resolve and solidarity on the present crisis.

I proposed four points and there was very strong support for all of them.

First, that the members of the alliance support President Bush's decision to deploy forces to Saudi Arabia and will contribute each in their own way to blocking further Iraqi aggression.

Second, we stand by our collective defense obligations to Turkey.

Third, the alliance supports actions which member states may take to help enforce United Nations sanctions. We agree that we must do what must be done in order to enforce the will of the United Nations.

And fourth, we sent another signal that NATO is a place where we can consult and where we can work together to meet a common crisis. . . .

Let me conclude with this thought. What the members of NATO do in response to the Iraqi threat carries significance far beyond the situation in the gulf.

This is the first crisis of the post -- post-war era. Our challenge is to demonstrate that armed aggression still doesn't pay. Acting with other nations, the members of NATO are demonstrating our unity in confronting a common danger.

We are demonstrating I think that in a new era we can work together in dealing with threats from new sources and from new directions. . . .

Q. Mr. Secretary, in your statement . . . you deplore what Saddam Hussein has done. . . . Is he so out of sync with his people that the United States would like to see the Iraqi people remove, overthrow, do away with {Saddam Hussein}?

A. I'm not going to suggest that -- that that is something that the United States is interested in or pursuing. That's a matter for the people of Iraq to determine. That is, who will constitute their leadership.

But I am suggesting that the entire world community has risen up in almost complete unity to condemn the aggression that has taken place by Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein and has called for the immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and for the imposition of mandatory sanctions for the first time in 23 years.

Q. Mr. Secretary, are the Westerners being held against their will in Iraq hostages now and what is the U.S. position, what is the U.S. prepared to do about it?

A. Well, the United States is very disturbed about the restrictions on the freedom of travel of all foreign nationals in Iraq, and in Kuwait, including of course American government officials and American citizens.

And you know the high priority that President Bush has placed upon the safety and welfare of our citizens. Most if not all foreign nationals are being prevented from leaving Iraq and Kuwait against their will. As far as we know, nothing has been asked or demanded for their freedom. Their restraint is, though, against all international norms. We are not calling them hostages because discussions are ongoing, even as we speak here this afternoon about obtaining permission for them to leave.

As best we can tell, so far at least, they have not been mistreated.

Q. Yes. As a result of your consultations today, could you tell us whether the allies, on an individual basis, would be sending any help to stand beside American troops in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere?

A. A number of members of the NATO alliance have indicated that they do intend to -- to send military support to the efforts that are currently underway in Saudi Arabia and in the Persian Gulf.

The United Kingdom and France, and the United States, of course, have been quite specific about the types and the nature of the support that they intend to furnish.

Germany, Belgium and Canada have expressed indications -- or gave indications that they will be having announcements to make in due course respecting some sort of support and of course those announcements are for them to make and not for me to make.

I do think it's not inappropriate for me, on behalf of the United States, to express our gratitude to the countries I've just mentioned and to the countries of Italy, Spain and Portugal, who have been very forthcoming in so far as our use of bases on their territory is concerned in the current crisis.

Q. Mr. Secretary, Secretary General Woerner explained why NATO, as an organization, could not engage in any kind of military support. . . . Were you disappointed at all in the degree of support that you got for the president's military action?

A. Well, I was not disappointed in the slightest and we got what I think is very, very strong and forthcoming support from everyone for the actions that the president has taken. Not only that. There were absolutely no reservations expressed whatsoever. . . .

Q. Mr. Secretary, in the last 18 months or so, certainly since you've come into office, there is a lot of talk about Germany and Japan really supplanting the United States at the vanguard of the Western alliance. Do you feel now in some way vindicated that this crisis has demonstrated that given the fact that it is only the United States that can project power, that a lot of this talk about the United States being supplanted was nothing more than hot air?

A. Germany and Japan are close allies of the United States. The United States is a close ally of Germany and Japan. So your question is phrased in a way that would have me responding adversely, and I don't want to do that. Let me just speak personally, for myself -- I have never really felt that that argument was valid. I think that these three nations, as three of the major economies of the world, together with other member states of this alliance, can continue, as we have in the past, to act jointly to support freedom and democracy around the world. And that's what I think you're seeing happening here today. . . .

Q. Mr. Secretary, in the case of either the multinational force, a blockade, which you said is a possibility, or any other action -- have you had discussions with the other ministers, or elsewhere about the command structure? Will these forces be under U.S. command, under Saudi command, under multinational command?

A. We've had discussions to the effect, generally, that it is the view of some of us that we have the legal authority necessary to institute such an embargo or blockade, provided that the request comes from the legitimate government of Kuwait, the authority exists under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. I don't know how many of the NATO alliance countries adopt that view. Let me simply say the United States, and I know some other major countries do.

The only other discussions we have had with regard to that subject, quite frankly, are that there will have to be agreed upon some sort of coordinating mechanism. That has not as yet been done. It will have to be done, as the secretary general, I think, mentioned to you, by the governments that are involved in the effort, jointly, and, of course, with the full concurrence and participation of the government of Saudi Arabia with respect to operations that might take place on the ground.

Q. Mr. Secretary, there are two questions, please. {What would be the} U.S. reaction to an eventual forced removal of embassies and diplomatic representation from Kuwait, first? And second, {you will be} meeting the Soviet ambassador . . . I believe will be next few hours, or half an hour. Are you expecting any kind of message back from the Kremlin, or it will just be for information purposes?

A. I'm meeting with the Soviet ambassador to Belgium because he is the designated Soviet liaison to NATO, in keeping with the call in the London declaration for a diplomatic liaison relationship from the member states of the Warsaw Pact. So I will be meeting with him at the conclusion of this press conference in his capacity as the Soviet liaison here to NATO.

We are considering the other question that you asked. There are meetings ongoing now in Washington. I do not think a decision has as yet been taken. But let me simply say that, of course, we do not recognize and we condemn and view as null and void the so-called annexation of Kuwait by Iraq and we think that the legitimate government of Kuwait is the government of Kuwait that existed eight or nine or 10 days ago, and we have concern and regard for the safety of the some 3,500 to 3,800 private American citizens that are resident in Kuwait -- or that are now in Kuwait. . . .

Q. Mr. Secretary, there are reports out of Cairo this morning that Egyptian officials are floating the idea of . . . opponents of Iraq saying that if Iraq will withdraw from Kuwait, all forces would be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere that had been put in place. Is the United States prepared to withdraw from Saudi Arabia if Iraq withdraws from Kuwait?

A. Well, the United States has long said that we want to see an immediate Iraqi withdrawal, but we also want to see a restoration to power of the legitimate government of Kuwait. We also want to be assured of the safety and welfare of American citizens. And for that matter we think the safety and welfare of all foreign nationals should be assured and we would want to make certain that there was no threat to freedom of navigation in the gulf and the security and stability of the gulf. But the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the restoration of the Kuwaiti leadership are something that we've been calling for a long time, before any decision was made, I might say, to respond to the request of the government of Saudi Arabia for defensive assistance.

Q. Mr. Secretary, two Soviet officials yesterday voiced uneasiness about military action in the gulf that did not get the explicit sanction of the United Nations. Are strains appearing in your cooperation with the Soviets and can you tell us if the United States would seek a U.N. endorsement of the military action that's currently underway?

A. Well, first of all, let me say that I don't think any strains are appearing in the relationship, and I again would -- I would repeat what I said that evening in Moscow when we had our joint U.S.-Soviet statement on this incident of Iraqi aggression. I think what we think about the difference in the situation, if we were viewing this in an East-West prism, the way we would have been perhaps viewing this kind of a crisis as recently as a year of 18 months ago.

I talked again with the foreign minister of the Soviet Union last night and it is not my sense that there is any problem developing in our relationship, that is, the U.S.-Soviet relationship.

Now with respect to the question of U.N. participation I think that the broader the participation -- whether it's economic or political or military -- the broader the participation can be, in opposition to this Iraqi aggression, the better off we are. And there is no reason why we would not welcome a United Nations condemnation of this action -- further condemnation of this action by Iraq. So that's the best way I know to answer your question. . . .

Q. Mr. Secretary, is there any new indication of an Iraqi troop build-up on the Turkish border? There's been conflicting reports, and also conflicting confirmations from Washington.

A. There is some evidence of increased activity up there -- up north. Furthermore, there is further evidence of -- of continued movements south through Iraq toward Kuwait of additional Iraqi forces.

Q. Mr. Secretary, what do you think of the attitude of France, which has refused to join the multinational force, and has moved into the gulf on its own?

A. France? The attitude of France? I think the attitude of France -- we welcome the announcement that was made by the government of France, I think it was last night or early this morning that they are going to send some significant assets to the gulf, both naval and air, and so we welcome that very much. . . .

Q. As you said the other day that France and the Soviet Union had agreed to consider sending naval assets to the Persian Gulf. The Soviets now apparently are saying that they would only send any sort of military help in this crisis in the context of a United Nations solution. Which is it?

A. I think that is the Soviet position. What I said was the Soviets had sent a ship to the gulf. They have. They would want . . . do any coordinated action, I think, only under a United Nations command.

I'm not sure that's the case with France. I think that France would be -- perhaps -- I shouldn't speak for France, and I won't, so go ask them, but they're sending significant assets to the gulf, just as many other countries are. And if, for instance, you're going to talk in terms of a blockade, there will have to be a traffic cop as there was before.

And someone, or some collection of countries or individuals, will have to coordinate this. That is something that is being considered and being discussed.