AT the United Nations, as diplomats wrangled over the terms of Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, officials began to step up plans for extensive peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations in the immediate postwar period. At press time, Security Council members were scheduled to hold further informal consultations on a Gulf war cease-fire. Soviet representatives continued to press for the action in response to an Iraqi request and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's radio address announcing a complete withdrawal from Kuwait. But the White House said Tuesday morning that Saddam's speech ``changes nothing'' and that ``the war goes on.''
On Feb. 25, Radio Baghdad had announced an unconditional pullout from Kuwait, on terms to be set by the Security Council. Soviet UN Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov called the Council together to report that the offer had been officially confirmed in a message signed by Saddam and sent by Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz via the Soviet Embassy in Baghdad.
The note also asked Mr. Gorbachev to use his influence in the Security Council to get a cease-fire. Abdul Amir al-Anbari, Iraq's ambassador to the UN, made a late appearance in the Council confirm this. Anbari later said he believed the US and Israel had ``hidden agendas'' that made them uninterested in a cease-fire.
Abdalla al-Ashtal, Yemen's ambassador, asked the Council to adopt a new resolution that would set a short timeframe for the cease-fire and withdrawal and would establish a UN observer force to monitor the withdrawal.
The US and coalition partners insisted the offer had to be made personally and publicly by Saddam, and that it must include explicit retraction of Iraq's annexation of Kuwait and an acknowledgment of liability for war damages. Hours later, Saddam made his radio announcement, but the US felt the offer still fell short. Nevertheless, the Soviets asked the Council to reconvene in an emergency session to consider a cease-fire.
In Moscow, when asked about the US reaction to the initial Iraqi statement, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Belogonov indirectly accused the U.S. of pushing for ``new conditions,'' although he also acknowledged that the Iraqi leadership had only agreed to abide by one of the 12 UN resolutions. He also admitted the Soviet Union had no independent confirmation of Iraqi claims of having begun withdrawal
Mr. Belognov also refused to support steps to disarm Iraq after the end of the conflict. ``There is nothing in the United nations resolutions about any future limitations on Iraq,'' he replied.
On the peacekeeping front, the start-up orders can come only after agreement from the Security Council. But Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar has asked countries willing to contribute soldiers to have them ready at 48 hours notice.
UN officials say that the Iran-Iraq peacekeeping operation, UNIIMOG, whose mandate is due to expire Feb. 27, may be disbanded and sent to Kuwait. UN planners have asked countries involved in UNIIMOG but not supporting the current fighting to make contingents available. Other interested countries would be asked to send 10 soldiers each.
The new force would initially comprise about 250 men charged with observing the Iraqi withdrawal. A more extensive UN peacekeeping force could be sent in later to help restore law and order in Kuwait and to patrol cease-fire lines along the border.
A month ago, Iran opposed disbanding UNIIMOG because an important part of its mandate had not yet been carried out - Iraqi withdrawal of troops to international borders. Iranian diplomats confirm, however, that full withdrawal has taken place in recent weeks, and Council members say this was verified in a report by the Secretary-General last week.