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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Iraq puts its case to Russia
Naji Sabri
Naji Sabri is to meet Russia's foreign minister
The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, has held talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow as Baghdad steps up its drive to thwart a possible US military strike.

Mr Sabri met Igor Ivanov to discuss Iraq's situation and bilateral co-operation.

Moscow has been a strong supporter of Washington's "war on terrorism" launched after last September's terror attacks on the United States, but it opposes any military strike on Iraq.


Moscow welcomes the continuation of the dialogue between Iraq and the UN Secretary General

Igor Ivanov
Russian Foreign Minister

As the talks got under way, Mr Ivanov said Moscow "welcomes the continuation of the dialogue between Iraq and the UN Secretary General (Kofi Annan)".

He voiced hope that the dialogue would "result in resumed activities by international inspectors in Iraq, and consequently, the future lifting of international sanctions on Baghdad," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported.

In Washington, the debate over Iraq policy continues to rage, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell joining calls for Iraq to allow United Nations inspectors back in to complete their assessment of its weapons industry.

He said the inspections would be a first step, but that the US also needed to present evidence of its suspicions about Iraq to the international community, so that an informed judgement could be made about possible military action.

Mr Powell's comments seemed to contradict US Vice-President Dick Cheney, who said last week that there was no point sending weapons inspectors back into Iraq - and argued forcefully for military action.

Close ties

Iraq has traditionally had close ties to Russia, and the two countries recently agreed to sign an economic co-operation deal worth up to $60bn.

It will include new projects as well as the modernisation of Soviet-built infrastructure in Iraq.

Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan
The Iraqi vice-president praised European opposition to US plans
Iraq is also launching a diplomatic offensive targeting European Union states, to try to rally opposition to possible military action.

Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan praised the EU for refusing to follow America's stance.

In recent weeks the EU, along with many other countries, has made it clear it wants differences with Iraq to be resolved through diplomacy rather than war.

Inspectors 'welcome'

Dr Mudhaffar Amin, the Iraqi representative in London, told the BBC's Today programme on Monday that Iraq welcomed United Nations weapon inspectors into the county, but added: "We really have to sit and work out the agenda for their work.


We are ready to talk and to allow weapons inspectors into the country

Dr Mudhaffar Amin
"We are in the process of talking with Kofi Annan. We have had three meetings and we are ready to have another meeting.

"I hope he will be satisfied and give us a chance before declaring war and devastating the country.

"Let wisdom prevail. We are ready to talk and to allow weapons inspectors into the country."

Concern about military option

Mr Powell told the BBC on Sunday that President Bush wanted the UN inspectors, who left Iraq four years ago, to go back in before any decision was taken on a military strike.

A Filipino demonstrator during an anti-US rally
Iraq wants to capitalise on anti-US feeling

Mr Powell is a lone moderate voice in a government dominated by hawks, correspondents say.

But more and more US allies - in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere - are expressing concern over a possible strike on Iraq.

Joining those urging caution, former Saudi oil minister Sheikh Yamani told the BBC's Talking Point programme on Sunday that the US would be "playing with fire" if it attacked Iraq.

He warned President Bush that there could be a big jump in the price of oil and a collapse in the world economy if there was a sizeable disruption in oil supplies.

Also on Sunday, in an interview with CNN, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz dismissed accusations that Iraq was working to produce nuclear weapons.

"That's not true. We are ready to prove it by technical, viable means," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nikolai Gorshkov reports from Moscow
"Moscow has failed to find a shred of evidence that Iraq poses a threat"

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31 Aug 02 | Europe
31 Aug 02 | Politics
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
30 Aug 02 | Media reports
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
29 Aug 02 | Middle East
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