The United States and its major allies are drafting several U.N. Security Council resolutions threatening Iraq with financial claims and war crimes charges to increase pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to end the occupation of Kuwait without bloodshed.
U.S. officials said they hope to turn the attention of the United Nations back to the Persian Gulf crisis after two weeks of preoccupation with the killing of 19 Palestinians by Israeli security forces during an Oct. 8 rock-throwing riot in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The officials said they intend to pursue this shift of emphasis despite Israel's refusal to cooperate with Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar's representatives in investigating the killings. Perez de Cuellar's announcement Friday that he will not send an emissary to Jerusalem because of the Israeli attitude seems certain to spark new efforts by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its Arab supporters for new Security Council action against Israel.
Still, the U.S. officials said, the five permanent members of the Security Council agree that some initiatives are needed to remind Iraq that the 159 U.N. countries remain united in their determination to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, restore the sovereignty of its tiny neighbor and release the thousands of third-country nationals Iraq is holding as "human shields" against possible attack.
Since the Aug. 2 Iraqi invasion, the Security Council has sought to achieve these goals through nonmilitary measures designed to isolate Iraq: a series of resolutions imposing sweeping economic sanctions, authorizing U.N. members to enforce the boycott by blocking sea and air traffic, and demanding release of the hostages.
U.S. officials and other U.N. sources said that if the sanctions are to be effective, it is necessary to draw the diplomatic noose around Iraq even tighter by warning Iraq of the potential consequences of its continued defiance of world opinion. Specifically, the sources said, the United States envisions the council adopting three new resolutions during the next two or three weeks.
Discussions in recent days among the permanent five -- the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China -- originally focused on including some or all of the new pressure points in a single resolution. However, the sources said, the U.S. officials believe they will be more effective if they are separate resolutions spun out over a longer time.
The first, which U.S. officials said could be adopted as early as today, would involve a call for Iraq to end its efforts to force the closing of embassies still operating in Kuwait City. In line with Baghdad's contention that Kuwait no longer exists as an independent country, the Iraqis cut off water, electricity and food to all the embassy compounds, thereby forcing all but the U.S., British, French and Indonesian missions to close.
The proposed resolution, being pushed especially hard by Secretary of State James A. Baker III, would demand that Iraq restore the embassies' water and electricity and allow their governments to resupply them with food and other basic necessities of life. Failure to comply could be cited against Iraq later as another example of defiance of international law and the norms of diplomatic immunity.
The council is then expected to adopt a resolution stemming from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's proposal last month to compensate victims for financial losses suffered from Iraqi assets being frozen in other countries as a result of the embargo.
The resolution under consideration by the permanent five would not go that far. Instead, it would lay the groundwork for compensation at a later stage by inviting governments to prepare lists of claims.
U.N. sources said Washington still has not approved the text, although the four other permanent members are ready to vote for it. However, U.S. officials said the problem stems only from questions about the number of resolutions. They noted that the compensation issue is especially important to Thatcher, the strongest U.S. ally at the United Nations, and added that it is certain to be adopted in one form or another.
The proposed third resolution would deal with the question of possible Iraqi war crimes by compiling lists and evidence about widespread human rights violations allegedly committed by Iraq in Kuwait, and making clear that not only Saddam but also senior Iraqi military and civilian officials will be held responsible for atrocities.
U.S. officials said the resolution would have two purposes. One would be to plant the fear of having to face a war crimes tribunal among senior Iraqi military commanders to encourage them to think about getting rid of Saddam. The other is to give notice that the United Nations regards atrocities in Kuwait as punishable war crimes, thereby avoiding the charge -- leveled against earlier war crimes tribunals such as the Nuremberg trials after World War II -- that they were of dubious legality because they were arranged long after the crimes were committed.