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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Russia evasive over Iraq resolution
UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad
Russia wants inspectors back as soon as possible
US President George W Bush's attempts to win Russia's support for possible military action against Iraq appear so far to have made little headway.

After a meeting at the White House, Russia's foreign and defence ministers gave no indication that Mr Bush had persuaded them to change their minds and back a new United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq.


I think they are open to hear our arguments and we're open to hear their arguments

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Bush is pressing for an urgent resolution setting a deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to meet UN demands or face military force.

His spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said Mr Bush gave the two Russian ministers "straight, direct, from-the-heart talk about the risks that Russia faces and the rest of the world faces" from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's "relentless quest for weapons of mass destruction".

But while Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said both Russia and the United States were "interested in the inspectors' work being effective and providing a clear answer to the question of whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not", he did not mention a potential new resolution.

Earlier, President Vladimir Putin told President Bush in a phone call the most important thing was to get the UN arms inspectors back to work quickly, now Iraq has agreed to their unconditional return.

Mr Ivanov stressed Russia's role in extracting an Iraqi offer to allow inspections to resume, which the Russian leadership believes means no new resolution is required.

Russia wields a veto in the Security Council and could scupper Mr Bush's efforts.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell played down talk of a rift between the two powers.

"I think they are open to hear our arguments and we're open to hear their arguments, and so the split that has been much spoken about earlier this week I don't think is quite the split that people have portrayed," he said.

Georgia rebels

Correspondents say Mr Bush had two incentives to offer the Russians at Friday's meeting: a role in nation-building following conflict in Iraq, and help in Russia's struggle with Georgia-based rebels.


If Saddam has a nuclear bomb already, how easy would it be to hide it from the inspectors ?

George Matalavea, New Zealand


Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov indicated that some progress had been made on Georgia.

"I believe the US shares our concerns (about Georgia)," he said, saying his delegation had explained and "provided proof" of Georgia's support for rebel forces battling the Russian military in neighbouring Chechnya.

"Everything is already clear... a very real threat emanates from Georgia," he said.

The US has so far opposed Moscow's threat of military intervention in the Pankisi Gorge, where the Kremlin says Georgian authorities are allowing Chechen rebels to live unchecked.

Iraqi 'ploy'

The US believes the Iraqi offer to allow in weapons inspectors is a ploy.

Mr Powell has said Washington will find ways to prevent their return unless there is a new UN resolution on the issue.

Washington regards Russia's refusal to accept the need for a new Security Council resolution as a recipe for delay and failure.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

The chief UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, hopes to have an advance party in Iraq by 15 October.

On Thursday, in a draft resolution to Congress, President Bush asked lawmakers to authorise all necessary and appropriate means to ensure Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions.

"If the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will," Mr Bush said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Matt Frei reports from Washington
"Russians still oppose a strike against a sovereign nation"
Lee Feinstein, Council on Foreign Relations
"There is a need for more muscle behind the resolution"

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20 Sep 02 | Americas
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20 Sep 02 | Hardtalk
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