Russia Slams New Draft on Iraq

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Tuesday sharply criticized the new U.S. draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq, saying it does not meet the criteria that Russia considers important for resolving the crisis, news reports said.

Ivanov's statement, made to reporters, was the Kremlin's first official reaction to the U.S. proposal presented on Monday to the other four permanent members of the Security Council.

"The American draft resolution, which was presented yesterday, does not answer the criteria [for resolution of the Iraq crisis] which the Russian side laid out earlier and which it confirms today," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying.

As Security Council members studied the revised U.S. draft of a resolution on Iraq, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Tuesday that he thought a war could be avoided if Baghdad were able to persuade the world that it did not have weapons of mass destruction.

"I think that if Iraq helps create confidence that there are no weapons of mass destruction, then I think there will be no war," Blix said upon his arrival in Moscow, where he met later with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

After the meeting, Blix said the most important thing about the resolution from the point of view of weapons inspectors is that the Security Council members unanimously endorse it. "I hope that whatever they do, they will do it by unanimity," he told reporters. "I don't think they are there yet."

Blix's remarks came a day after U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte gave the complete U.S. draft to envoys from the four other permanent council members -- France, Russia, China and Britain. The draft was being studied in the four capitals, and the five veto-holding nations were to meet again Tuesday.

Ivanov made no comment after the meeting with Blix, but the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that he had "pointed out the necessity of the soonest possible deployment in that country of international inspectors."

News agencies quoted unidentified "informed" sources Tuesday as saying Moscow was "disappointed" with the new version. In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer indicated the U.S. administration was getting impatient with the other Security Council members. "It's a fact that they don't have forever," he said.

On Friday, Ivanov said Moscow favored a scenario in which inspectors would return in the near future, and in the event that they run into problems, the Security Council would convene again to consider a second, tough resolution that could authorize force.

That approach is also favored by France. Fleischer said Tuesday that Washington still believes that "one resolution is appropriate."

Meanwhile, Blix said he would like to see the inspectors go to Iraq as soon as possible, but that it was advisable for them to wait for the expected UN Security Council resolution rather than receive new instructions after they had started work. He said it was important for the inspectors to travel to Iraq to provide a clearer picture of the state of its weapons programs.

Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said Monday after talking to U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton that the U.S. warnings about possible use of force against Iraq "don't help to create a constructive atmosphere in the world for solving military security issues."

Bolton said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell would discuss the wording of the resolution with Ivanov.