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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia May Support New UN Resolution

President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia was prepared to support new UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, but only to strengthen the work of inspectors searching for its weapons programs and not to authorize the use of military force.

Making his most extensive remarks to date on the looming confrontation with Iraq, after meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Zavidovo hunting lodge north of Moscow, Putin said the most urgent issue was how to return inspectors to Iraq to verify that country's compliance with its commitments to dismantle nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs.

Putin, like others outside the United States, appears simply to disagree on the urgency of the threat that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq poses. On Friday, Putin bluntly dismissed recent reports on the subject by Britain and the CIA as "propaganda" to support already developed positions.

"Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that would support the existence of nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he said Friday at a news conference with Blair, who arrived Thursday evening, accompanied by his wife, Cherie, for a day and a half of talks. "And we have not received such information from our partners as yet."

Putin noted that the Iraqi government and the director of the UN inspection team had already agreed on resumption of inspections and said that those inspections should begin immediately under existing Security Council resolutions, though he was open to proposals to strengthen rules governing how the inspectors work.

Putin did not directly address the draft resolution prepared and circulated by the United States and Britain, but only hours after he spoke, a deputy foreign minister, Yury Fedotov, rejected it, saying it "cannot be accepted as a basis for a future UN Security Council resolution on Iraq as it contains clearly unfulfillable demands."

Putin's remarks made it clear that an intensive diplomatic effort -- including Blair's visit and a telephone call from Bush on Monday congratulating Putin on his 50th birthday -- has so far failed to persuade him to accept a tougher resolution warning Iraq of the consequences of noncompliance.

"Baghdad has made concessions and agreed to receive a UN commission without any conditions," Putin said, rebuffing the Bush administration's arguments. "Bearing this in mind, we believe that there are no formal and legal reasons for adopting any new UN resolution."

The hardening of Russia's position came a day after the House and Senate voted to give Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. That vote was criticized in Russia on Friday as a provocation and a threat to global political and economic stability, underscoring the domestic pressure Putin faces on the issue.

Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the defense committee in the Federation Council, said the vote "can be regarded as a challenge to the world community that proves that the United States of America does not pay any attention to the norms of international law."

Blair acknowledged that he and Putin had "different perspectives about how sure we can be about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction."

Blair also argued for a unified position on the Security Council, saying that would be the most effective lever against Saddam. "The stronger and clearer the signal the international community gives," he said, "the less likely conflict will be."