Russia to solve UN, Iraq impasse
BAGHDAD: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said on Thursday his talks with Iraqi officials were focused on trying to solve an impasse between Iraq and the United Nations over the return of international weapons inspectors.
Saltanov is in Baghdad on the second leg of a Middle East tour to exchange views on possible US military action against Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“We should exert efforts to find a political solution based on the UN Security Council resolutions (on Iraq),” Saltanov told reporters after meeting with Iraq’s Foreign Minister Naji Sabri.
But he said any solution should include the return of arms inspectors who have been barred from Iraq since December 1998 when the United States and Britain launched a brief bombing campaign to punish Baghdad’s alleged failure to cooperate with them.
“It is necessary that such a solution includes the resumption of Iraq’s cooperation on the field of disarmament,” said Saltanov, adding that the resumption of inspections should be
“connected to the lifting of the (UN) sanctions”.
Checking on Iraq’s alleged efforts to build weapons of mass destruction is key to suspending UN sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, sparking the Gulf War.
Three rounds of talks with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan this year have failed to yield Iraqi agreement to readmit the arms monitors, with Baghdad seeking guarantees that it will not be attacked and conditions for the inspectors’ work.
Saltanov repeated his country’s rejection of any US military strike against Iraq, which has the world’s second largest oil
reserves and has traditionally been close to Moscow.
“We are against military scenarios,” he said.
Speculation has mounted recently that the United States is planning to invade Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein, whose government is deemed by Washington to be part of an “axis of evil” seeking weapons of
Saltanov said earlier in Damascus there was time for a political way out of the stand-off between Baghdad and Washington.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on Wednesday that Washington was using the United Nations to soften up world opinion for military strikes against Iraq. —Reuters