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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
President Putin's doubts over Iraq
Blair and Putin walking in the woods
Mr Blair wants Russian backing at the UN

They dined on barbecued boar and venison stew, and they went on safari in a national park.

They took a boat trip to an island. And they talked at length about Iraq.

Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin claim to see the world through similar eyes.

But on the question of how to deal with Saddam Hussein the two leaders continue to disagree.

Putin and Blair
The two men did not see eye to eye on Iraq
Mr Blair repeated his call for a tough new UN resolution on Iraq.

One that would threaten Baghdad with military action if it obstructed the work of a new team of weapons inspectors.

After his talks at Vladimir Putin's country residence, north of Moscow, Mr Blair told journalists he believed it was important to have a fresh resolution that makes it clear this new weapons inspection regime is qualitatively different and able to do its job properly.

Russian doubts

Mr Putin remains unconvinced. He still sees no need for a new resolution.

And today he dismissed Mr Blair's dossier of evidence against Saddam as propaganda.

Russia has not in its possession any trustworthy data, Mr Putin said, that could support the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

He had not received from his partners such information as yet.

Mr Putin said, though, he may consider a new UN resolution on Iraq if it became necessary to aid the work of weapons inspectors.

A sign perhaps that Russia may be persuaded to join an international coalition against Saddam.

Strings

But Moscow could lay down conditions - financial ones - amid fears that a military strike against Saddam could threaten Russia's considerable economic interests in Iraq.

Russian oil companies have potentially lucrative contracts there.

UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad, 1998
Russia wants arms inspections before any new resolution
Could they survive if the United States moves in to remove Saddam?

Then there is the matter of $7bn of Soviet-era debt which the Iraqi regime owes Moscow.

Will Moscow ever see that money again?

Tony Blair has conceded that Russia has legitimate economic interests in Iraq, which need to be addressed.

And though he and Mr Putin have denied haggling or discussing a trade-off, it is no secret that Moscow expects to be offered certain economic guarantees in exchange for its support for the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.


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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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