PARIS, Dec. 5 -- The European allies, seeking to become more closely involved in diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the Persian Gulf crisis, are proposing to start their own dialogue with Baghdad at the foreign minister level and are urging that an international conference on the Middle East be held as soon as possible after Iraq leaves Kuwait and frees all hostages.
The European initiatives, coming only days after President Bush surprised many allies by offering to meet with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Washington and to send Secretary of State James A. Baker III to Baghdad, are designed to convince Iraq that war will erupt unless it withdraws fully from Kuwait and releases all foreign captives.
But diplomats said the planned contacts will also promise rapid "post-crisis" moves to resolve other Middle East disputes, such as the Israeli-Palestinian problem and Syria's presence in Lebanon, so that Saddam Hussein will not feel cornered.
The 12 foreign ministers of the European Community states, meeting in Brussels Tuesday, agreed to ask Aziz to meet in Rome next week with Italy's Gianni De Michelis on his return trip to Baghdad after he sees Bush and Baker in Washington. Italy is currently serving in the rotating EC presidency.
In addition, French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said he is prepared to go to Baghdad after Baker goes there sometime before Jan. 15. Germany's Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who turned down an earlier offer to go to Baghdad to retrieve all remaining German hostages, may also visit Iraq after Baker does.
Official sources said Genscher was tempted to follow former chancellor Willy Brandt's example in bringing hostages home from Baghdad because of the extra boost it could have provided his Free Democratic Party in last Sunday's German elections. But they said he declined Iraq's invitation because it would have broken a Western consensus to discourage all official visits there.
Diplomatic sources said that despite firm promises from the allies that such contacts will only reinforce demands that Iraq must abide by all U.N. resolutions, there is the risk that Iraq will attempt to manipulate the separate intermediaries and try to buy time by dispensing different concessions or messages. But they added that the deadline of Jan. 15 for a withdrawal, set last week by a U.N. resolution that authorizes use of force after that date, will limit Iraq's room to maneuver.
Meanwhile, European governments are increasingly emphasizing a need to think about a longer-term settlement of the Middle East conflicts that perpetuate instability in the region. Dumas said an international conference will become "indispensable" after the gulf crisis is resolved, and that "a lot of countries are thinking that way, including the United States."
Such a conference, Dumas told a gathering of members of the Western European Union parliament here this week, should deal with "human rights, the exploitation of resources, disarmament, respect for the sovereignty of states, and, of course, regional security."
France contends that effective international safeguards could contain Iraq's military arsenal, including its supply of chemical and biological weapons, and prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. The United States is dubious.
Under President Ronald Reagan, the United States sided with Israel in rejecting the holding of an international Middle East conference, but Dumas has said privately that he believes the Bush administration will endorse one after Iraqi troops leave Kuwait.