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Shevardnadze Calls for a U.N. Patrol in Gulf : Naval Units Would Replace Western Warships; U.S. Rejects Idea, Sees Soviet Bid to Be 'Player'

September 24, 1987|NORMAN KEMPSTER and JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writers

UNITED NATIONS — Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze called Wednesday for creation of a United Nations naval force that would ensure free navigation through the war-torn Persian Gulf and replace the U.S. and European warships that have been sent there in recent months.

But a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States has rejected similar Soviet proposals in the past.

"It is simply a Soviet attempt to become a major player in the gulf itself, and they're not," he said. "Our attitude is, 'No, thank you very much.' We do have friends and allies who do have vital concerns in the gulf, and we'll take care of the policeman's role. That's not to say we don't want international cooperation."

Backs Iran Demand

Shevardnadze, in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, also endorsed Iran's demand for an independent tribunal to fix the blame for the start of the seven-year war between Iran and Iraq. Iranian President Ali Khamenei, also in New York for the U.N. session, said earlier in the day that such a tribunal could lead to his government's acceptance of a cease-fire.

A Soviet spokesman said later that Shevardnadze's suggestions were intended to stop the fighting without requiring the U.N. Security Council to act on a U.S.-advocated resolution imposing an arms embargo against Iran in response to that country's refusal to accept the council's July 20 cease-fire order.

The White House official said that the Administration remained committed to winning approval of an arms embargo against Iran.

Britain issued a strong statement of support for an arms embargo Friday and also closed an Iranian weapons-purchasing office in London. France and China, meanwhile, issued new calls for adherence to the Security Council's cease-fire order, and France made clear that it is prepared to support an embargo.

The positions of the United States, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and China will be crucial if the Security Council votes on an arms embargo because--as the five permanent members of the 15-nation council--they have veto power.

And in Washington, President Reagan, facing an uncertain response in Congress to the U.S. helicopter attack Monday on an Iranian mine-laying ship, said it would be a "great mistake" for the House and Senate to limit the deployment of U.S. ships in the tense waterway.

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans continued to work toward a bipartisan compromise that would avert a showdown between Reagan and Congress over his refusal to invoke the controversial War Powers Resolution. A vote on the issue, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was put off until today.

The 1973 resolution requires the President to notify Congress when U.S. forces are assigned to a mission in which they face "imminent hostilities." The President then must end the operation within 90 days unless Congress authorizes it. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that the Administration is following the spirit of the resolution by providing Congress with extensive briefings.

According to sources, the bipartisan compromise would simply require Reagan to report to Congress on the Persian Gulf situation without mentioning the War Powers Resolution. Details of the plan were still being worked out in negotiations between leaders of the two parties.

Sen. Lowell P. Weicker (R-Conn.), author of a measure calling on Reagan to invoke the War Powers Resolution in the Persian Gulf, condemned the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats to come up with a less stringent solution.

"Congress doesn't have the guts to fulfill its duty under the War Powers Act," he said.

Shevardnadze, urging that a U.N. peacekeeping force replace the Western warships now in the gulf, told the U.N. General Assembly:

"The safety of navigation in the gulf can and must be ensured by the entire world community, in whose behalf the United Nations will be acting. If necessary, appropriate and sufficient forces should be made effectively available to it. . . . This would also make it possible to painlessly withdraw foreign naval forces from the Persian Gulf."

Besides the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands have warships in the gulf region or en route there. The Soviet Union, too, has warships on escort duty in the gulf.

Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said later that the details of the proposed gulf force still "must be worked out."

"If you have a United Nations force, it is international, so there will be no danger of enlarging the conflict," Gerasimov said.

Gerasimov said that the Soviet Union ultimately might agree to support an arms embargo against Iran, but he made it clear that Moscow wants to try other options first.

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