UNITED NATIONS, SEPT. 14 -- The Security Council voted late Thursday night to impose strict controls on humanitarian food aid to Iraq and Kuwait, and diplomats here said today the move was a signal that the United Nations intends to maintain pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The council adopted the resolution in a 13 to 2 vote, with Cuba and Yemen opposed. Observers here said it was not clear whether Iraq would accept the terms of Resolution 666, which would channel food shipments to Iraq through U.N. and other international agencies.
The vote will allow a ship bearing an estimated 10,000 tons of food to depart from the port of Cochin, in southern India, to Kuwait, where an estimated 140,000 Indians are stranded. The food shipment is widely viewed as a test case for the newly passed resolution.
The situation has taken on urgency in the wake of Iraq's decision last week to deny food to hundreds of thousands of Asians in Iraq and Kuwait. The Iraqi move was seen as an attempt to drive a wedge into the international consensus by using food to pressure the Asian nations.
While Iraq has demanded that all food be allowed to enter unhindered, the resolution calls for the sanctions committee to determine the amounts of food and the circumstances under which it will be provided. One aim is to avoid the food ending up in the hands of the Iraqi army.
The resolution also calls for Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to use U.N. and "appropriate" humanitarian agencies to provide information on the availability of food. The secretary general is also requested to facilitate delivery of food which "should be provided through the United Nations in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross or other appropriate humanitarian agencies."
The resolution requests that particular attention be paid to children under age 15, pregnant women, maternity cases, the sick and the elderly. It also reaffirms that Iraq is fully responsible for the safety and well-being of the foreign nationals under its control.
A U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed skepticism that Iraq would accept a role for the United Nations in either assessing food needs or in distribution. Iraq, too, has indicated it may not allow a U.N. role.
On Wednesday, Iraqi Ambassador Abdul Amir Anbari reiterated opposition to any participation by international relief agencies. Distribution must be handled by local organizations, he said, a condition that raises the possibility that food could be diverted to the Iraqi army. He also cast doubt on a role for the secretary general in assessing Iraq's food needs.
The adoption of Resolution 666, minutes before midnight on Thursday, was preceded by a vote on a Cuban-sponsored draft resolution that called for access to basic foodstuffs by civilians and foreign nationals in Iraq and Kuwait.
The document, which would have punched an enormous hole in the embargo against Iraq, failed to muster the necessary votes for adoption, with only Cuba, China and Yemen supporting it, five countries opposed and seven abstentions.
Resolution 666 does not apply to medical supplies but it recommends that such goods be exported under the "strict supervision of the Government of the exporting State or by appropriate humanitarian agencies." It also holds Iraq "fully responsible" for the safety of third-country nationals.
"Iraq must remember that the sanctions are an attempt to achieve a peaceful solution to the situation," a Western diplomat said. "If sanctions fail, then it faces a much more serious alternative."