Wary to Intervene, EC Aids Kurds
LUXEMBOURG — THE 12 national leaders attending Monday's emergency European Community summit were greeted by protesters expressing two divergent philosophies: ``Foreign troops out of the Gulf!'' cried some, while others urged massive international action on behalf of Iraq's persecuted Kurds. The two contradictory demands, one for foreign intervention in another country's internal affairs, the other implicitly opposing it, stand at the heart of the dilemma facing the international community as it wrangles over its response to the Kurds' plight.
At Monday's summit, EC leaders endorsed substantial emergency aid and more long-term protection for Iraq's Kurds - thus acting in favor of international intervention, even when it is opposed by the Iraqi government.
In addition to approving $185 million in emergency relief to Iraq's refugees, estimated in the hundreds of thousands, EC leaders backed a British proposal for creation of a ``safe haven'' in northern Iraq. The haven would provide protection under United Nations auspices to the civilian population, and notably the Kurds, threatened with repression.
British Prime Minister John Major said his government's plan calls for a ``two-stage process,'' the first to get Iraqi Kurds ``down from the mountains'' where they have fled but where they face extremely adverse conditions. The second stage would involve returning them in safety to their homes.
Mr. Major said he believed the plan is authorized under last week's UN Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid to Iraq's suffering civilians. He said he did not anticipate Iraqi opposition to the plan, but added he ``would not be deterred if Baghdad refused'' creation of the safe haven.
Armed action unclear
Major remained vague on whether he would go so far as armed intervention to create the enclave, although French President Fran,cois Mitterrand ruled out a resort to force. But EC leaders did endorse the British viewpoint that sanctions against Iraq should remain in force as long as President Saddam Hussein remains in power.
Britain and France, the EC's two permanent Security Council members, were expected to take the plan to the UN body this week. US support is expected.
``It is in effect a new level of intervention in a country's internal affairs,'' insisted a French analyst. Some observers here, most notably the French, say they hope the Community's action creates a precedent for what French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas calls a ``duty of humanitarian intervention.''
Such unsolicited intervention has long been taboo under Article II of the UN Charter, which prohibits involvement in another country's internal business.
Speaking to his colleagues, Mr. Mitterand said ``it is always difficult to involve oneself in the internal affairs of a country,'' but he added the principle of nonintervention could not stand in the way of halting a massacre.
Major emphasized that, even though the proposed haven would exist as long as Iraq threatened its civilians, it did not constitute the country's dismantling.
``We aren't in the business of partitioning the country,'' he said. ``We made that clear during the whole Gulf conflict.''
Major also proposed creation of a UN register of arms sales to act as a kind of ``early warning'' mechanism against ``tin-pot dictators'' like Saddam who were amassing dangerous offensive arsenals.
The emergency summit was originally proposed by France in March as an opportunity for the EC to consider the lessons to be learned from Europe's weak and uncoordinated response to the Gulf crisis. French officials had hoped the summit might act as a spark to discussions of stepped-up European political and security integration.
With the urgency of the Kurdish issue carrying it to the top of the agenda, however, little time remained for other topics. But even Community officials supportive of a quickly integrating Europe say they were not disappointed by this week's summit.
EC official pleased
``This was already a bit of common political action,'' said an EC Commission official, noting with satisfaction that the British first proposed their Gulf related plan to their EC colleagues.
Still, EC unanimity on the Kurdish issue is not surprising. Unlike the difficult and divisive military issues of the Gulf war, the discussion of humanitarian aid signaled a return to more familiar political turf.
Other officials noted that, for the first time, the Western European Union met in conjunction with an EC summit. The WEU, a defense organization which some of its nine European members would like to see evolve into the EC's defense component, was charged with coordinating the logistics of the Community's emergency aid to Iraqi civilians.