Russian President Vladimir Putin has restated his firm opposition to a possible US-led war on Iraq, saying that the current crisis must be resolved through peaceful means.
Side by side, but not on Iraq
Speaking after talks in Sofia with Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov, Mr Putin said that diplomatic efforts to avoid war must continue.
"There is only one criterion in taking decisions: We should be guided by principles and norms of international law," he said.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, meanwhile, has been speaking by phone to his counterparts from the 15 different countries that currently comprise the United Nations Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement said that the "common position" of Russia, France and Germany on the Iraqi crisis and the need for continuing weapons inspections was "confirmed".
Lobbying council members
Bulgaria, currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council, has been one of the staunchest supporters of America and Britain's hardline stance towards Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Russia want arms inspections to continue
It has granted Washington the use of a Black Sea air base
and its airspace, although it has stated it would like to see a peaceful end to the crisis.
Mr Putin acknowledged that the two countries had opposing views, but added that every nation had a right to define their own stance.
"It must be said here that the Russian and Bulgarian positions on Iraq do not fully coincide," he said.
"[But] each country defines its foreign policy according to its national interest. We have no problem with that."
On Saturday, Mr Ivanov spoke to the foreign ministers of Angola, Guinea, Cameroon, Mexico, Pakistan, Syria and Chile, reaffirming "Russia's immutable position in favour of achieving an Iraqi settlement through exclusively peaceful, political and diplomatic means".
He also "drew attention" to Russia's joint alternative proposal with France and Germany, which calls for UN weapons inspectors to continue their work until at least July, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Mirroring US tactics
BBC Moscow correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov says that until now, Moscow has been focusing its diplomatic efforts on the main players in the Security Council, but now it appears to be turning to its less prominent members.
Observers have pointed out that this mirrors US tactics of trying to get as many votes as possible secured in support of its position.
Both Mr Putin and Mr Ivanov have said that Russia would use all available means to prevent a military conflict in Iraq, including a possible veto of any second UN resolution on the crisis.
However, our correspondent says that there appears to be a consensus among Russian politicians that a confrontation with Washington must be avoided.