DIPLOMATIC pressure on Iraq increased dramatically at the United Nations this week, as world statesmen warned that war was a possibility. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze told the UN Assembly Sept. 25 that ``the United Nations has the power to suppress acts of aggression. There is ample evidence that this right can be exercised. It will be, if the illegal occupation of Kuwait continues.''
Mr. Shevardnadze also presided Sept. 25 over a rare ministerial-level session of the UN Security Council. In the meeting, the Council voted to extend its economic embargo of Iraq, which had been mainly a maritime operation, to the air.
The Council also decided secondary sanctions would be considered against any country helping Iraq evade the blockade.
Abdul Amir al-Anbari, Iraq's UN ambassador, later called the Council decision ``an act of aggression, an act of war.''
Meanwhile, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait's exiled foreign minister, urged that military force be used if Iraq did not comply with the eight Council resolutions passed since the Aug. 2 invasion.
Shevardnadze told journalists after the meeting that war ``is not a desirable option, but this is one of the options contained in the [UN] charter.'' Still, he expressed some hope that a peaceful solution could be found. ``Even if this resolution is not observed, there are certain other things that could be done short of war....''
Other nonmilitary possibilities include a cutoff of all mail, telephone, telex, and transportation links to Iraq, and a call for severing all diplomatic relations.
Diplomats said, however, that they would probably not go along with a Kuwaiti suggestion to expel Iraq from the General Assembly because the whole point of the organization is its universality.
``We want Iraq here to hear what we have to say,'' says a Canadian diplomat. ``The onus is on Iraq. If they comply [with the resolutions], that's it. If not, we're prepared to keep going, step it up, and step it up again.''
Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's foreign minister, said in an interview Sept. 25 that he approved of the Council's attempts to put pressure on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Otherwise, he said, war was a possibility: ``When you have a huge military buildup, what do you expect?''
In a speech to the General Assembly Sept. 24, Mr. Velayati reaffirmed Iran's commitment to comply with UN sanctions. In the interview, he noted that Iran has arrested 29 people charged with attempting to smuggle goods into Iraq. ``Our government is determined to prevent even the smuggling of food from our borders,'' he said.
Ricardo Alarc'on, Cuba's UN ambassador, cast the only ballot against the air blockade.
Yemen, which had previously abstained, went along with the new measures forbidding air transport of cargos unless approved by the Council. Abdul Aziz Dali, the Yemeni foreign minister, told the Council his country could not support Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He said war could break out if force is used, and this must be ruled out.
Yemen plans to introduce another Security Council resolution this week that would give UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar a mandate to pursue negotiations.
Under the air blockade, passenger flights would still be permitted. But countries would be called upon to deny planes the right to overfly their airspace, if they had cargo bound for Iraq or Kuwait that had not been inspected.
The UN's military staff committee, which reportedly spelled out for the Council the ways in which maritime traffic could be intercepted, is expected to lay out the ways that air traffic could be hailed, in line with international conventions on civil aviation.
The resolution also calls upon all states to detain Iraqi ships that violate the embargo. This is a reference to Oman's refusal to allow United States naval ships to bring an Iraqi ship loaded with Sri Lankan tea into an Omani port. It is also directed at Yemen, which allowed several Iraqi oil tankers to dock in Aden.
In addition, the resolution affirms that UN agencies are bound by the sanctions. This would effectively authorize relocation of the UN's Economic Commission for South-West Asia, which was previously headquartered in Baghdad. The new location will probably be Amman, Jordan.