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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"The United Nations policy towards Iraq is now the subject of bitter controversy"
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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Russia resists new Iraq sanctions
Iraqi oil field
Iraqi oil would have repaid huge arms debts to Russia
Russia is threatening to block an attempt by the United States and Britain to revamp sanctions against Iraq, say United Nations officials in New York.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told his key UN Security Council counterparts in a letter at the weekend that Moscow "cannot" allow a draft resolution to pass.

This is not a negotiating stance - this is what they plan to do

Security Council member
The US-UK proposal would ease restrictions on civilian goods while retaining the military embargo on Iraq.

In order to succeed it needs the approval of all five permanent members of the Security Council: the US, UK, Russia, China and France.

Russia, Iraq's closest ally on the council, has argued instead that the UN should move towards ending the sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Mr Ivanov stopped short of using the word "veto" in his letter, but council diplomats say it is clear Moscow is threatening to kill the measure.

Iraqi women collects monthly food ration
Life under sanctions is grim for ordinary Iraqis
"This is not a negotiating stance. This is what they plan to do," one council member told Reuters news agency.

Last week Mr Ivanov criticised the US-UK plan, and said he would probably offer an alternative. Details are awaited.

Before 1990, Russia supplied Baghdad with weaponry worth billions of dollars to be repaid with oil.

Correspondents say its only hope of seeing at least some of that debt repaid is if sanctions are lifted and Russian firms allowed to invest in Iraqi oilfields.

'Technical' hitch

On Monday, Iraq's ambassador in Moscow said Russian firms would be given preferential treatment in return for opposition to the new, so-called "smart sanctions".

Colin Powell
Mr Powell may not be smiling much longer
The US-UK plan would be part of the oil-for-food scheme, which allows Baghdad to sell oil in order to buy basic goods for ordinary Iraqis.

The oil-for-food arrangements are expected to continue unchanged if the Security Council cannot reach an agreement on modifying the sanctions.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged problems in winning support from all the other council members.

"We have been unable to resolve all the technical issues," he said.

"If no resolution is arrived at, we will have to figure out what to do - how to extend the current situation and how long."

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See also:

18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Iraq 'by-passing sanctions'
05 Jun 01 | Middle East
UN debates Iraq sanctions
16 May 01 | Middle East
Iraq's neighbours warned on sanctions
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