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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 18:43 GMT
Putin pledges peace drive
Protesters in Munich, Germany
Putin is capitalising on anti-war feeling in Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to work closely with France and Germany with the aim of achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict over Iraq.

Vladimir Putin
We are convinced that efforts for a peaceful resolution of the situation should be persistently continued

Vladimir Putin
European diplomatic activity is exposing deep divisions with the US-UK position which advocates possible military action to disarm Iraq alleged weapons of mass destruction within weeks.

"We are convinced that a one-sided use of force would lead to great suffering for the Iraqi population and increase tension in the whole region," Mr Putin said after talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Sunday.

France, Germany, Russia and China - all members of the UN Security Council - share similar views on Iraq, Mr Putin said.

Mr Putin is on a whirlwind tour of Europe that includes talks with another anti-war voice on Monday, French President Jacques Chirac.

Veto fears

As permanent members of the Security Council, both Russia and China have the right to veto an unacceptable decision following next Friday's report by UN weapons inspectors about Iraqi compliance with UN disarmament obligations.

Mr Putin said any decision about further actions must be made only on the basis of information from the international inspectors.

For his part, Chancellor Schroeder told the joint news conference in Berlin: "We want to jointly make sure that there is a peaceful disarmament" of Iraq.

Both leaders stressed the Iraq must fully comply with weapons inspection.

BBC Moscow correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov says Russia does not want to use its veto at the UN because it would ruin the new-found strategic partnership between Moscow and Washington.

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The BBC's Brian Hanrahan
"The proposals have been rejected by America"

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