UNITED NATIONS, AUG. 25 -- The U.N. Security Council today gave the world's navies the right to use force to stop violations of trade sanctions against Iraq, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein responded with a chilling warning to the United States that there would be endless "columns of dead bodies" if his country is attacked.

The vote marked the first time in the United Nations' 45-year history that the council had authorized such military action -- without a U.N. flag or U.N. command and control -- to enforce its own sanctions.

It represented a major diplomatic victory for the United States, which had worked around the clock for the past week to convince the Soviet Union, China and wavering Third World countries that urgent action was needed to check violations of the trade embargo approved after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

After the council vote, U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who is in Bogota, Colombia, announced that he would personally mediate with Iraq and issued an offer to test whether Baghdad might be ready to show flexibility in the crisis, which was sparked by the invasion and exacerbated by Iraq's holding of thousands of Western hostages.

Saying the time has come for a personal effort by the secretary general to "prevent an escalation of the crisis," Perez de Cuellar announced that he has asked Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz "to urgently meet with me, preferably next week, in New York or Geneva, to engage without delay in a full exchange of views."

Thirteen of the council's 15 member states, including all five permanent members -- the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China -- voted for the resolution before dawn today after a marathon session that began Friday night. Cuba and Yemen abstained.

While some countries had sought to have naval operations in the Persian Gulf placed under U.N. control, the approved resolution was crafted to allow the United States and other governments to retain complete authority over the forces they have committed to enforcing the blockade. The resolution covers only maritime shipping and not airlifts to Iraq.

Iraq angrily responded today to the resolution, which was the Security Council's fifth rebuke of Baghdad for invading Kuwait.

Aziz was quoted by the Iraqi News Agency as saying that "Iraq rejects the unjust resolution," and he accused the Security Council of becoming "a tool" of the United States. Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Abdul Amir Anbari warned, "This use of force by the United States or any of its allies or puppets will lead inevitably to a number of explosions which will burn all in their path."

Iraqi authorities also took new steps in ampaign to close all foreign embassies in Kuwait, which Saddam today declared would never regain independence. Although Iraq did not carry out its threat to close the embassies by force, it cut water and power to some facilities. It also said again today that U.S. diplomats who had gone from Kuwait to Baghdad on Wednesday with assurances that they could leave Iraq had lost their diplomatic status and uld be detained. Iraqi authorities said, however, that the diplomats' families could leave. In Kennebunkport, Maine, where President Bush is vacationing, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said in a statement that the U.N. vote was a sign of "the commitment of the world to act effectively to achieve the complete, immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait."

Fitzwater also said the United States was encouraged by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's statement on Friday urging Saddam to withdraw from Kuwait. "We welcome his voice to the world condemnation of the aggression by Saddam Hussein," he said.

Today's approval of the U.N. resolution became possible after the Soviet Union, once Baghdad's most important military supplier, dropped its objections. Today, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze urged Saddam to take heed of the strengthened U.N. embargo. "We hope that the Iraqi leadership will draw the appropriate conclusions and take measures to de-escalate the crisis," he said, according to the Tass news agency. "That is our advice to the Iraqi leadership."

U.S. national security adviser Brent Scowcroft said the U.N. resolution gives U.S. and other naval forces a free hand to board or otherwise stop ships in the Persian Gulf attempting to defy the economic blockade. "Vessels will be stopped and inspected," Scowcroft said on CNN today.

France and Great Britain have indicated they will join U.S. naval forces in the interdiction effort, which could come within the next few days. U.S. officials have said they would like to see the first ship stopped by joint action, if possible.

U.S. forces are prepared to disable ships that attempt to run the blockade by shooting out their rudders or through other means. Scowcroft said the minimum force necessary to do the job would be used.

In Baghdad, Saddam bluntly told the United States that if it started a war with Iraq, there would be "columns of dead bodies that may have a beginning but which would not have an end."

Saddam, taking the opportunity of a visit by Austrian President Kurt Waldheim to address his first news conference, called on Bush to find a political solution to the crisis, but stressed that Iraq's annexation of Kuwait was irreversible and could not be part of a negotiated settlement. The United States has demanded an unconditional, immediate withdrawal from Kuwait.

Saddam also dismissed the U.N. condemnations of Iraq, accusing the United States of a double standard. "The United Nations passed resolutions saying Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories," he said. "Israel did not. The United Nations never imposed embargoes on Israel as a result. Why? The reason is that the United States does not want a blockade on Israel."

While Iraq did not respond publicly to Perez de Cuellar's call for a meeting with the Iraqi foreign minister, Saddam said at the news conference that the U.N. secretary general was welcome to visit Baghdad.

Saddam told Austrian reporters traveling with Waldheim that he had no intention of invading Saudi Arabia -- a fear that prompted the United States to deploy troops and weapons in the region -- and would welcome talks with other mediators.

"We respect the sovereignty of every Arab country. We also respected Kuwait's sovereignty, but the corrupt regime there plotted against its motherland, and with the invasion Iraq was only defending itself," said Saddam, who has accused the ousted Kuwaiti royal family of depriving Iraq of oil revenues.

Waldheim, a former United Nations secretary general who has been snubbed by many Western leaders because of his World War II service with a German army unit implicated in atrocities, met with Saddam at an airport outside Baghdad. Later, Waldheim flew to Amman on an Iraqi airliner with about 100 Austrian nationals whose release he had won from the Iraqis. Once in Jordan, the Austrians, including women and children, swiftly boarded an Austrian airliner.

Waldheim, the first Western head of state to visit with Saddam since the invasion, said in Amman that he had raised with Saddam the question of the other Westerners trapped in Iraq and Kuwait and hoped his intercession would result in their release. Austria, which has been neutral since 1955, has supported U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq.

Iraq, meanwhile, carried out its threat to cut supplies to embassies in Kuwait, shutting off power at the U.S., Japanese, Italian and British missions, and power and water at the East German embassy.

White House officials said phones and water remained on at the U.S. Embassy and that the small staff there continued to carry on consular functions. Iraq's U.S. ambassador also said Iraq would not use force against the American mission in Kuwait.

Italy's Foreign Ministry said Iraqi soldiers were knocking down a wall at the French mission in Kuwait in an apparent effort to cut off the water supply, but France could not confirm the report.

Iraqi soldiers, some armed with machine guns and mortars, remained outside many embassies in Kuwait City but made no effort to remove diplomats by force, according to reports reaching foreign ministries in several countries.

Iraq continued to hold thousands of Westerners hostage, some of whom have been placed at strategic sites as shields against U.S. attack, and warned that anyone found harboring foreigners in Iraq or Kuwait would be hanged.

In a related development, Yemen, which has been accused by Western officials of helping Iraq circumvent the economic blockade, today gave Britain's consul general 48 hours to leave Aden after charging that he was caught taking pictures of an oil refinery and military installations.

The British Foreign Office in London denied that the diplomat, Doug Gordon, was engaged in prohibited activities, and it lodged a protest with Yemen's ambassador in London. A Foreign Office spokesman said Gordon had been "observing tanker movements into Aden harbor, as have many others, and the vessels have been plain to see to any observer."

The incident occurred a day after British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd said an Iraqi tanker, the Ain-Zaleh, had unloaded oil in Aden earlier in the week in violation of the embargo. Yemeni officials said the Ain-Zaleh, carrying 20,000 tons of Iraqi crude, stopped unloading its cargo five hours after it docked at Aden on Tuesday. They denied Yemen has helped Iraq break the embargo, saying they recognize the legality of the U.N. sanctions.

Yemen today also denied reports that it was allowing Iraqi aircraft to pick up food in Yemen in violation of the sanctions.

White House and Pentagon officials said today after the U.N. vote that American warships in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Red Sea have the authority to use "disabling fire" if necessary to stop and search cargo vessels and oil tankers suspected of trying to break the embargo.

One Navy official said American commanders are under orders to use voice communications to hail and halt a suspect vessel. If that fails, shots across the bow are authorized. And, "if the situation warrants it, you will go after the rudder and use other disabling fire."

A Navy official said U.S. naval forces currently had under surveillance a half-dozen vessels that were candidates for interception, but they were either at anchor or some distance from the "zones of interception" established more than a week ago after Bush said U.S. naval forces would enforce the embargo. Two of the vessels were anchored in Aden, and Yemen has said it would not accept cargo or oil from either vessel.

"There is no indication that the sanctions are going to be violated by anything going on right now if Yemen lives up to its word," a White House official said.

Similarly, administration officials said there were no ships bound for Jordan's port at Aqaba, which has been used as a transit point for Iraq in the past.

Here at the United Nations, even after agreement on a formal resolution was reached late Friday among the five permanent council members, a night-long negotiating session was required to overcome demands by some Nonaligned Movement nations that naval operations in the Persian Gulf be under U.N. control. They wanted to add language making countries participating in the blockade "accountable to the Security Council" under the coordination of the council's Military Staff Committee and the secretary general.

That would have effectively established a joint U.N. command over gulf naval activities, rather than allowing individual countries such as the United States to retain direct control over their own forces and set their own rules of engagement. In the end, though, they settled for language assigning to the military committee the powerless role of serving as a clearinghouse through which countries should report their gulf naval activities to the council.

The operative phrase in the resolution, while outwardly vague in meaning, states that countries "deploying maritime forces to the area {can} use such measures commensurate to the specific circustances as may be necessary . . . to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping."

Western diplomats said the language actually is broader than the original "minimum force" term because it gives warships that might engage in interdiction a potentially greater scope for action.

During the negotiations, the United States had to counter the arguments of the Soviet Union and China that more time should be allowed for diplomatic efforts before turning to military measures.

The United States and its council allies agreed to incorporate in the resolution language calling on U.N. countries to make "maximum use of political and diplomatic measures" in seeking an end to the gulf crisis. That gesture not only brought the Soviets on board; it also persuaded China, which earlier had signaled its intention to abstain, to vote for the resolution.

Contributing to this report were William Claiborne in Cairo and Patrick E. Tyler in Washington.