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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia Make Progress on Iraq

The Foreign Ministry said Friday "real progress" had been made in U.S.-Russian talks on revising UN sanctions against Iraq, although more efforts had to be made to narrow differences.

In its first word on the Feb. 6-7 talks in Geneva, the ministry said the Russian delegation had maintained it wanted sanctions against Iraq simplified and not tightened.

The United States said Thursday it also felt progress had been made in the talks aimed at revising the sanctions against Iraq to ease the burden on the civilian population.

The so-called smart sanctions could speed Iraq's access to essential civilian goods under its oil-for-food program while tightening an embargo on arms and military equipment in force since 1990.

Describing the talks as constructive, the Russian statement said: "Real progress has been achieved in clarifying questions, although certain differences remain, and also with regard to the need to narrow the spheres of disagreement."

The Geneva talks, the second since the UN Security Council backed the smart sanctions plan in November, came amid intensified Iraqi efforts to break out of diplomatic isolation.

Baghdad fears it could become a target in the United States' war against those it blames for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

More U.S.-Russian talks are scheduled for mid-March to meet an end-May deadline for a deal on a revised list of goods and procedures for applying the United Nations' action against the Baghdad government of Saddam Hussein.

Although Moscow, which is owed some $8 billion by Iraq in Soviet-era debt, has long opposed sanctions, it agreed last November to negotiate modifications to the sanctions regime.

In return, Washington could be ready to review the conditions that Iraq needs to meet to get the sanctions lifted, providing that Baghdad agrees first to allow UN weapons inspectors to resume their work.

Saddam said Friday he would not let them back in.

Russia, a close economic partner of Iraq, has in the past been one of Baghdad's most powerful backers at the United Nations.

But the Friday statement said the Geneva talks had concentrated on the practical issue of sanctions, and "political aspects" of the Iraqi problem had been left to the side.