UNITED NATIONS, OCT. 29 -- The U.N. Security Council today passed a resolution that begins the process of making Iraq legally responsible for financial damages and human rights violations caused by its invasion of Kuwait.
By a vote of 13 to 0, with two abstentions, the council condemned Iraq's "mistreatment and oppression" of Kuwaiti citizens and innocent hostages from other countries. It invited U.N. members to collect information about Iraq's "grave breaches" of human rights, warned Baghdad that "it is liable for any loss, damage or injury" it causes in Kuwait and demanded that besieged foreign embassies in Kuwait be given food, water and basic services.
The resolution -- the ninth to be voted against Iraq since its Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait -- marked a successful effort by the United States and its allies to turn the council's attention back, at least temporarily, to the gulf crisis after three weeks of debate about condemning Israel for the killing of Palestinians during an Oct. 8 riot in Jerusalem.
The resolutions against Iraq have represented a strategy by the United States and its principal allies to turn up the diplomatic and economic pressure on Baghdad, either to push Iraq out of Kuwait without resorting to force or, failing that, to strengthen the case for possible military action.
In Paris, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said today that the time has come for a new Arab peace initiative to resolve the Persian Gulf crisis because, under the pressure of global trade sanctions, "some signs are emerging that Iraq's leadership may be heeding the will of the United Nations."
Gorbachev said he learned in an early-morning telegram from his Middle East envoy, Yevgeny Primakov, who flew to Saudi Arabia today from Iraq after two meetings with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, that "some new reflections have taken place" and that Saddam's "position is no longer the same which he held some time ago."
Today's vote had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed at Soviet request in hopes of improving the atmosphere for the weekend talks in Baghdad between Saddam and Primakov.
Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdul Amir Anbari, charged that the latest U.N. resolution was drafted to allow the United States and its allies to claim that "they have exhausted all attempts to achieve peace and that they have failed and that the option of war is the only one left."
The U.N. vote was followed late today by the highest-level meeting ever held of the U.N.'s chief military group, the Security Council's Military Staff Committee.
Accompanying U.S. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering at the informal consultations on the Persian Gulf crisis was the staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael P. C. Carns. U.S. and other diplomatic sources said those at the meeting discussed a possible larger role for the committee in coordinating enforcement of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, but the sources stressed that there are no plans to put the huge, multinational military forces in the gulf region under a unified U.N. command.
The sources said that the committee's discussions centered on naval forces operating in the Persian Gulf operating under a U.N. resolution allowing them to use force against vessels seeking to evade the economic blockade of Iraq.
But, the sources added, there is no suggestion here that the United Nations might play any kind of command role over the sizable U.S., Arab and European ground forces in Saudi Arabia because, they said, those forces are there under special arrangements with the Saudi government to assist Saudi Arabia's self-defense against Iraqi aggression.
There has been speculation that Saddam hopes to split the Soviet Union and France, whose nationals in Kuwait are being freed, from the alliance of major powers demanding unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. But both the Soviet Union and France joined today in sponsoring the council's new condemnation of Iraq.
Abstaining on the vote were Yemen, the Security Council's only Arab member, and Cuba.
The resolution cited increasing reports of atrocities in Kuwait, including destruction of demographic records, expulsion and forced relocation of Kuwaitis and seizure of property, including hospital supplies and equipment.
It demanded that Iraq "cease and desist from taking third-state nationals hostage." It called for collection of information to lay the groundwork for possible future resolutions holding Iraq liable for financial damages and putting Iraqi officials on notice that they could be tried for human rights abuses.
It also demanded that Iraq "ensure immediate access to food, water and basic services for diplomatic missions in Kuwait." That point has been pursued strongly by the United States, one of two countries still maintaining its embassy in Kuwait despite Iraqi efforts to seal it off from vital supplies and services.
U.S. officials, in discussing this provision, have stressed its humanitarian aspects for the benefit of the small cadre of American diplomats still in Kuwait and their ability to look out for other U.S. citizens there. The officials and other U.N. diplomats gave no indication that this provision was intended to be a possible pretext for future military action to rescue the embattled embassy.
Nevertheless, Pickering told the Security Council today after the vote: "The continued denial of food, water and basic services, the refusal to permit departure of any and all who seek to depart, the imposition of virtual siege and terror -- these are unacceptable. . . . Every nation has a duty to protect its citizens. This is a fundamental obligation. The United States will do that which is necessary to meet its obligation to its own citizens.
"The international community is speaking out clearly against Iraq's efforts to destroy the sovereign state of Kuwait through organized looting, destruction and even murder," Pickering said.
The military staff committee is supposed to be composed of the highest-ranking officers of each of the Security Council's five permanent members. Before today, however, they usually have been represented by officers below general rank. In addition to Carns, officers attending today's talks were Vice Adm. Alain Coatanea, director of France's Joint Military Staff; Col. Gen. Bronislav Omelichev, first deputy chief of the Soviet General Staff; Maj. Gen. Edwin H. A. Beckett, head of the British Defense Staff in Washington; and Maj. Gen. Du Kuanyi, senior military member of China's U.N. delegation.