WASHINGTON -- Despite warnings the Falklands dispute could lead to war, the Organization of American States sidetracked its own mediation proposal Thursday to give the United States a chance to resolve the Anglo-Argentine crisis.
'The Haig mission should be given a chance,' William Middendorf, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, said. Secretary of State Alexander Haig left earlier in the day for London and Buenos Aires.
The United States and Argentina were among the 19 hemispheric nations voting to recess until Monday a special session on a resolution offering the OAS' 'good offices' to mediate the crisis that erupted last Friday with Argentina's invasion of the British-ruled islands off the Argentine coast.
Middendorf agreed that a lengthy and public OAS debate now on the Falklands dispute could be 'counter-productive' and might 'undermine' Haig's mission.
U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar said in Geneva Thursday he too is prepared to step in if U.S. mediation efforts fail to resolve the Falklands dispute.
The resolution calling for OAS mediation was offered by Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, whose delegates opposed the decision to adjourn the session until Monday as proposed by Bolivia and Paraguay.
During an hour-long debate, Colombian Ambassador Carlos Bernal Tellez warned that the Falklands crisis 'could lead to a war whose consequences are impossible to predict.'
'It is urgent that the OAS seek to encourage a positive and constructive dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom,' Bernal said. 'We cannot remain silent when faced with a situation which threatens hemispheric peace.'
Costa Rican delegate Jose Echeverria raised the specter of a third world war if the dispute over the South Atlantic islands explodes into fighting.
Echeverria asked the OAS to consider forming a U.N.-style peace-keeping force to be stationed on the Falkland Islands while Argentina and Great Britian negotiate their dispute over the South Atlantic islands.
Diplomatic sources said that at Monday's OAS session Peru may seize on the Costa Rican proposal and formally ask the organization to establish a hemispheric peacekeeping force for the Falklands.
Christopher Crabbie, first secretary of the British Embassy in Washington, attended the meeting and said afterwards Argentina should heed the U.N. call that it withdraw its troops from the islands.
'This is an issue of self-determination ... not colonialism,' Crabbie told reporters. 'Argentina is breaking all the precepts of international behavior by invading the Falkland Islands.'