THE world should swiftly bring maximum pressure to bear on Iraq in an effort to stop its use of illegal chemical weapons against Iran. Last week the United States stopped the export to Iraq of a large batch of chemicals that could have been used to make poison gas. It was a good move. Other nations also should bar export to Iraq of such materials.
Now a group of Western nations is trying to get the UN Security Council to condemn Iraqi use of the gases. That would be a useful step: The pressure of world opinion and the threat of a slowing of the armaments Iraq needs, might force it to stop using chemical weaponry.
Employing chemical weapons was outlawed by international agreement in 1925. Using them now, as Iraq has been doing, is a step backward in world affairs. Instead, nations need to move forward to control additional weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear armaments. To violate an agreement already in force is to move in the wrong direction.
Earlier this week a United Nations team of chemical warfare experts found ''substantial evidence'' that outlawed chemical weapons had been used against Iran and its ground forces involved in the war with Iraq. UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said the ''conclusions substantiate the allegations that chemical weapons have been used.'' The UN findings supported the opinions of some Western physicians who had examined wounded Iranians.
No conclusive proof has been found that Iraq is the guilty party, but all evidence clearly points in that direction despite Iraqi denials, inasmuch as it is the only nation at war with Iran.