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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Steps Up Iraq Mediation Drive

Russia's mediation drive between Iraq and Kuwait moved into top gear on Tuesday, when visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz handed over a letter dealing with Baghdad's recognition of its former Gulf War foe.

"Tareq Aziz ... handed President Boris Yeltsin a message from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Iraq's recognition of Kuwait's sovereignty and borders under UN Security Council Resolution 833," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Foreign Ministry officials would not comment on whether the letter had specified Iraq would now officially recognize Kuwait.

But the statement said Yeltsin had ordered Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to fly to Baghdad "to take part in completing the appropriate constitutional procedures." Itar-Tass said he would leave for a three-day trip to Iraq on Wednesday.

Kozyrev has been pushing for weeks for Iraq formally to recognize Kuwait, and for the international community to lift trade and oil sanctions against Moscow's old ally in response. He earlier held talks with Aziz to clarify Baghdad's position.

The liberal Russian minister rushed straight to Yeltsin's Kremlin office after his closed-door meeting with Aziz, Interfax said, not bothering to make his usual stop at his own ministry.

The talks with Aziz follow Kozyrev's announcement on Oct. 13 that he had won an apparently unconditional promise from Saddam to recognize Kuwait's sovereignty and borders.

But the UN Security Council insisted this pledge had to be fully ratified in legal form before sanctions could be eased.

In return for full Iraqi recognition of Kuwait, Kozyrev last month promised that Russia would support a lifting of the embargo on Iraqi oil exports after six months.

Iraq has been under UN trade sanctions since shortly after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The embargo includes a ban on crude oil exports, which were the country's main foreign revenue earner before the Gulf War.

Although food imports are allowed under the ban, Iraq has refused an offer to sell a limited amount of oil under UN supervision and use part of the proceeds to meet pressing domestic humanitarian needs.

Tuesday's meeting in Moscow continued moves by Moscow to recover lost status as an influential player in high-profile Gulf diplomacy, raising the Kremlin's faded profile in the Middle Esat.