United Nations' Multiple Roles At Odds In Confronting Gulf Crisis
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.
BY taking sides in the Gulf conflict, the United Nations has forfeited its usual neutral role as a negotiator of disputes. ``The UN can't be ... an authorizer of war and at the same time be a mediator,'' saysRichard Gardner, professor of international law at Columbia University.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet UN experts agree that the UN is sure to play a key role in any final settlement by providing peacekeeping forces to monitor a cease-fire and troop withdrawal. Contingency planning for that has been under way here for several months. The UN is likely to be involved in the postwar reconstruction of Kuwait and future arms-control efforts in the region.
Also, the world body may yet play an important diplomatic role in reaching cease-fire terms through the good offices of UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar.
Although Iraqi president Saddam Hussein now berates the UN as a ``US puppet,'' in the 1980s he appealed repeatedly to the Security Council to negotiate a cease-fire to the Iran-Iraq war. It is likely he would still rather turn to the UN than the US in any effort to end the Gulf conflict.
Though founded to prevent war, the UN in this case had no opportunity to stop Iraq's swift takeover of Kuwait. By siding with Kuwait, the UN acted on a second key mission: to oppose aggression. UN experts say the organization's failure to condemn Iraq's move into Iran in 1980 on the same grounds was shortsighted and may have led Mr. Hussein to think he could get away with it again.
Right up to the Jan. 15 deadline the UN set for Iraq to withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait, the world body's New York headquarters was the scene of an intensive flurry of diplomatic efforts.
But now the mood at the UN is comparatively somber, although a few nations - Algeria, the Soviet Union, and India - are still trying to float individual proposals. The few delegates who are here hover close to TV sets. Mr. P'erez de Cu'ellar, who made two trips to the Gulf to try to persuade Iraq to withdraw, has said it is not the time for diplomacy. ``I have done my best,'' he says.
Still, his last minute appeal to Hussein, coupled with a personal promise to make every effort to see that the Arab-Israeli conflict is addressed comprehensively, is one UN initiative still on the table. ``That appeal remains a basis for possible action,'' says Francois Giuliani, spokesman for P'erez de Cu'ellar.
Though bound by the terms of 12 UN Security Council resolutions, the UN Secretary-General has some leeway under the charter to be what Charles William Maynes, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, describes as an independent voice for the international community as well as the ``obedient servant'' of the UN majority.
Experts concede that the dash and vigor with which that second hat is worn varies enormously between one secretary-general and another. John Ruggie, director of the University of California's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, says that P'erez de Cu'ellar properly stayed within the limits of his authority, yet reached beyond the scope of Council resolutions, in his pledge to try to convene a conference.
Yet John Lawrence Hargrove, executive director of the American Society of International Law, argues that neither the UN leader nor the Council can really negotiate in the Gulf case. To do so, he says, would violate a fundamental principle of the existing international system by which unlawful force may not be used to get concessions in return for ending force.