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Gorbachev Warns Against Escalation, Civilian Casualties : Soviet Union: Moscow might ask other Security Council members to review implementation of the resolutions under which the U.S. and allies are fighting.


MOSCOW — President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, expressing the Soviet Union's concern over escalation of the Persian Gulf War, warned the United States on Tuesday against taking the conflict deep into Iraq and probably causing extensive civilian casualties.

Gorbachev also reminded the United States and its allies in the war that the U.N. Security Council resolution under which they are acting simply called for the "liberation of Kuwait and the restoration of its independence."

And he expressed concern that the war could quickly spread if great restraint is not shown.

"There is a threat that events might get out of hand," he said, referring to possible Israeli retaliation against Iraq and to the growing involvement of U.S. forces based in Turkey.

Gorbachev's warnings, although consistent with Soviet policy since Iraq's seizure of Kuwait on Aug. 2, significantly distanced Moscow from Washington on several key issues, depriving the Bush Administration of the support that it had come to take for granted in the past five months.

They reflected the concern here over the sheer size and scope of the allied assault in the past week and the feeling that more effort should have gone into a peaceful resolution.

Also clearly present was the hope that the Soviet Union would be able to act as a mediator when the time comes for peace talks.

"From the very start, we have worked on the premise that the conflict must be resolved by peaceful means so as to prevent a conflict of such a nature that would have grave consequences and from which it would be very difficult to find a way out," the Soviet president said in brief comments at a press conference here Tuesday.

Gorbachev had discussed the Soviet Union's concerns with President Bush last week, according to Soviet officials, but felt compelled to make a public statement, his second since the war began, to clarify Moscow's position.

He reaffirmed Soviet support for all the U.N. resolutions, blamed the war on "the irresponsible policies of the Iraqi leadership" and declared that Moscow is working "constantly, regularly, permanently" with the United States to secure Kuwait's liberation.

Gorbachev's most significant warning was against expanding the massive U.S. and British bombing campaign, particularly to non-military targets.

"We must not allow military operations to develop into a situation that will result in the killings of servicemen and particularly innocent civilians," he said, speaking extemporaneously. "I think that would be quite a different situation, which would have to be evaluated, and then we would have to respond adequately."

Calling this "the most important thing that I want to emphasize," Gorbachev indicated that, if such a development happened, the Soviet Union would ask other Security Council members to review the implementation of the resolutions under which the United States and its allies are fighting.

Gorbachev also made clear that the Soviet Union interprets the U.N. resolution that authorized the military action as limited to driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait although U.S. officials have frequently spoken of wider goals, including the destruction of Iraq's military potential, particularly its facilities for producing chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons.

"Those events that are taking place in the Persian Gulf clearly can escalate," he said, "and that is very dangerous. We must do our utmost to prevent the conflict from spreading."

The warnings and reservations he expressed went beyond nuances, the officials said, and had been conveyed in the daily discussions that U.S. Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Jr. has been having with top Foreign Ministry officials here.

Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, Gorbachev's senior military adviser, had said Monday that many in the Soviet Union feel the United States had not used all the avenues available for a peaceful resolution, and Gorbachev is known to have told Bush that he regretted he did not have more time for a final appeal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"The failure to use all opportunities for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and the outbreak of war in this dangerous region causes deep regret," Akhromeyev said in an article in the Communist Party newspaper Pravda.

A member of the Soviet general staff, quoted earlier Tuesday by the independent news service Interfax, estimated that as much as 90% of all allied raids had missed their targets in the first week of bombing, implying that the attacks were hitting civilian areas and would have to be reflown and stepped up.

"A large part of the Iraqi aircraft and air bases have not been hit despite all the claims to the contrary," the unidentified general was quoted as saying. "Air bases in Iraq are very well camouflaged and extremely hard to detect."

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