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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Russia foresees deal on Iraq
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
Blair was seeking Russian backing for an Iraq resolution
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he does not rule out supporting a new, tougher United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq.

But he insisted Russia has still received no "persuasive proof" that President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

We are ready together with our partners to search for ways to ensure the work of [UN weapons] inspectors in Iraq

Vladimir Putin
He was speaking in Moscow after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is seeking backing for a resolution that would authorise force against the Iraqi leader.

Both houses of the United States Congress have now authorised President Bush to use force against Baghdad.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz says his country is ready to "confront these plans of aggression... within the hour".

'Negative experiences'

British officials say Mr Blair's talks with Mr Putin bore fruit as the Russian leader, for the first time, publicly spoke of the possibility of a new resolution on Iraq.

"Russia's position has always been that no new resolution is necessary," Mr Putin said. "But we need to take account of the negative experience of the work of U.N. inspectors."

UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad, 198
Russia wants arms inspections to precede any new resolution

"With this aim in mind, I do not rule out reaching a joint position, including a UN resolution," he added.

However Mr Putin made plain his doubts over America and Britain's arguments that Saddam Hussein is a danger because of his possession of biological and chemical weapons.

Russia "has not received persuasive proof from its partners of such weapons in Iraq. This thesis is confirmed by information sent by the CIA to [the US] Congress," he said.

And he repeated Moscow's view that there were no legal grounds for military action against Iraq.

For his part, Mr Blair accepted that "there may be different perspectives about how sure we can be about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction."

But he emphasised that "the stronger and clearer the signal the international community gives... the less likely conflict will be."

Russian interests

Russia wants to recover $7bn of debt incurred by Iraq during the Soviet era and aims to get its hands on the money by developing Iraqi oilfields as soon as the opportunity arises.

I will vote to give [President Bush] the authority he needs

Tom Daschle, Senate Majority Leader

Mr Putin denied Russian opposition to the use of force against Iraq could be bought off.

"I would plead with you not to perceive our meeting as a bargaining place," he told reporters, saying he had not invited Mr Blair to "an Oriental bazaar".

US war authorisation

Late on Friday the US Senate voted to grant US President Bush the authority to launch an attack on Iraq.

"Because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment - I will vote to give the president the authority he needs," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

The resolution allows Mr Bush to use "necessary and appropriate force" to disarm Iraq.

Observers had said that were Mr Bush to win the backing of Congress, it would put pressure on the United Nations to agree on a new resolution to avert unilateral military action by the US.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall reports from Zavidovo
"It is clear that substantial differences remain"
Dumisani Kumalo, South African ambassador to the UN
"The Security Council is on the verge of passing a resolution that goes through uncharted terrirtory"
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on Iraq
"We have to disarm them"

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See also:

11 Oct 02 | Middle East
11 Oct 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Americas
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Politics
30 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Oct 02 | Politics
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