The Bush administration's diplomatic effort to win support for a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq will come to a head in New York Thursday when the idea is put before the 15 members of the council, Secretary of State James A. Baker III said yesterday.

Baker and President Bush have spent the last 10 days lobbying the members of the Security Council to back a resolution to force Iraq out of Kuwait if it does not leave voluntarily.

Baker has invited the foreign ministers of nations that make up the Security Council to take part in Thursday's debate.

"We're talking about a resolution that would lay the political foundations for possible use of force if we were unable to achieve a peaceful and political solution to the crisis," Baker said in Houston, Reuter reported.

"I can't tell you what words will be used because that will be a part of the negotiation which has been going on for some time," national security adviser Brent Scowcroft said. "But it will be something like taking the necessary means to enforce the 10 U.N. resolutions which so far {Iraqi President} Saddam Hussein has ignored" since Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2. The Associated Press, citing unnamed sources, said last night that the proposed resolution authorizes force if Iraq is not out of Kuwait by Jan. 1, but that report could not be confirmed.

Both Scowcroft and Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, in separate appearances on television talk shows yesterday, said the United States does not need U.N. approval to take steps to force Iraq from Kuwait if U.S. officials judge that the U.N.-authorized economic sanctions are not working.

But Cheney said a U.N. resolution would "be a very useful first step."

Cheney and Scowcroft also reiterated the position Bush raised last week that Iraq's potential to produce nuclear weapons is another reason to confront the Iraqi dictator.

Cheney, on CBS's "Face the Nation," said Saddam "is closer today than he was a few months ago" to being able to produce nuclear weapons and could have "some kind of a crude device" in a year or less.

Scowcroft, on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley," said Iraq could have a nuclear bomb within "months" and that -- though it will be far longer before Saddam has an arsenal of nuclear weapons -- "building even one could make a significant difference for troops fighting in the region." Scowcroft warned that "one has to assume that he might be more willing to use nuclear weapons than has any other power."

Bush, during his Thanksgiving trip to the Persian Gulf last week, added Iraq's potential to produce nuclear weapons as a reason for the U.S. presence in the region.

Cheney warned that even if Saddam complies with the demands of the United Nations and withdraws from Kuwait, "you still are going to have to worry about the problem of his acquisition of sophisticated weapons." Cheney said that "one way or another, within a few years, Saddam Hussein is likely to acquire nuclear weapons."

To prevent him from doing that will require "a far more aggressive set of sanctions than anything we've seen up till now," Cheney said. "Even if Saddam leaves Kuwait, the sanctions wouldn't go totally away. You're going to try to deny him any further access to the kind of technology he would need to develop this capability."

Many Western experts estimate it will be five to 10 years before Iraq is capable of producing a small nuclear arsenal. Cheney said yesterday that Iraq's short-term nuclear capability is limited. He said the highly enriched uranium it uses as fuel for a research reactor is not "anything that would be weaponized in the sense that we think of a nuclear weapon" but could be used to produce a "very crude system."

Iraq reported last week that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are inspecting its nuclear program to verify it is not developing nuclear weapons. The IAEA said it found no such violations in an April inspection.

Scowcroft, in response to questions, said there is evidence Saddam is "doing what he can to prepare terrorist attacks."

"What we have heard is that he has gathered a whole raft of terrorists into his country and they are standing around awaiting instructions. Is that right?" he was asked. "That's right," Scowcroft replied.