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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Dispatches Primakov to Iraq

President Vladimir Putin sent former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to meet with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad this weekend in what analysts said was a last ditch attempt to hold off a U.S.-led attack.

The meeting came amid intense diplomatic maneuvering and a flurry of top-level telephone calls that ended with French President Jacques Chirac announcing Monday that France, Germany and Russia had submitted a joint proposal to the United Nations calling for the step-by-step disarmament of Iraq.

His announcement came as the United States and Britain prepared to present a new UN Security Council resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq. U.S. President George Bush said Monday the resolution would spell out how the Baghdad regime had failed to disarm weapons of mass destruction.

In an attempt to bolster France, Germany and Russia's disarmament proposal, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Hussein had promised Primakov during the meeting that Baghdad would not hinder the work of UN weapons inspectors sent to make sure Iraq disarmed. It said the meeting was held to receive Hussein's assurance Iraq would comply completely and unconditionally with the inspectors.

"Saddam Hussein said there will be no hindrances to the work of the inspectors of UNMOVIC and IAEA," the ministry said in a statement following Primakov's return to Moscow.

The ministry cranked up its antiwar rhetoric with another statement Monday, saying Russia would use its "entire arsenal of diplomatic means" to reach a peaceful solution. The statement followed telephone calls between Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his U.S., German, French and British counterparts over the past two days.

Putin joined the last-minute push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, telling Chirac in a telephone conversation Monday that Russia was with France on finding a political resolution, Interfax reported.

Analysts said Monday that despite the eleventh-hour maneuvering, if push came to shove in a possible UN Security Council vote, Putin would be unlikely to risk burgeoning relations with the United States by using Russia's veto against military action.

In the meantime, Russia is doing all it can to avert a resolution on war. Analysts said Primakov was likely sent to try to persuade Hussein to meet demands made Friday by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix for Iraq to begin to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles before March 1.

"The U.S. wants to use this as a pretext to attack, and Russia is looking for a pretext to prevent an attack," said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst. "Primakov was probably sent to persuade Saddam to start destroying the missiles."

Primakov's aides were unavailable for comment Monday, and a Foreign Ministry spokesman said he did not know whether this issue had been discussed.

"Russia is not interested in the start of a war," said Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst.

Russia has long feared that a U.S. strike could open up Iraq's vast oil patch, leading to a sharp drop in oil prices.

Russia has also been attempting to secure the stakes of its oil majors in Iraq ahead of a possible regime change. Oil industry sources said Friday that Energy Minister Igor Yusufov was planning a secret visit to Baghdad this week in an attempt to seal new oil field contracts with Iraq, Reuters reported.

Energy Ministry officials could not immediately confirm the report Monday.

With Washington wielding most of the power and the Kremlin's security interests in Central Asia dovetailing with those of the White House's, analysts said Putin has realized it is in Russia's long-term interests to stand by the United States over Iraq.

In a possible sign that the United States is trying to make sure Russia is on its side, Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed Thursday on Russian television that the Bush administration has recognized three Chechen groups as terrorist organizations.

"This was a key bargaining chip," said independent political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky. "The U.S. understands that Putin is sensitive about Chechnya. They're clearly saying, 'You support us on Iraq, we'll support you on Chechnya.'"

He said the arrival in Washington on Monday of Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin, who is reportedly a key architect of the pro-U.S. policy adopted by Putin since Sept. 11, is a clear signal that the final bargaining would go Washington's way.

"It is significant that for the final negotiations Putin is not sending anyone from the old political establishment" of the Foreign Ministry, which has been pushing a tough, antiwar line, Piontkovsky said.