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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin: Too Soon to Lift UN Sanctions

APPutin shaking hands with Blair on Tuesday during the prime minister's visit to Moscow.
President Vladimir Putin took a tough stance on postwar Iraq after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday, saying UN sanctions should not be lifted until it is clear that the threat of weapons of mass destruction has been eliminated and insisting on a central role for the United Nations.

After about two hours of talks with the British leader at his country residence outside Moscow, Putin emphasized that the U.S.-led coalition had based its war in Iraq on the belief that Baghdad had such weapons and said this issue must be clarified before sanctions can be removed.

That position has put Russia on a collision course with the United States, which is planning a UN resolution to end sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and to authorize phasing out the UN oil-for-food humanitarian program, according to Security Council diplomats. That would end UN control over Iraq's oil income.

Putin said it was not known whether former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was alive. Neither inspectors nor coalition troops have found banned weapons, but that does not mean the threat has been eliminated, he said.

"Where is Saddam? Where are these arsenals -- if they were really there?" Putin said. "Maybe he is sitting somewhere in a secret bunker with plans to blow all this stuff up at the last minute, threatening hundreds of human lives.

"We don't know anything. These questions must be answered," Putin said.

He also emphasized the need for a key UN role in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, saying that a settlement reached without the world body's input "would hardly be long-lasting, stable or fair."

Putin said it was necessary for UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, and suggested they could be placed under the protection of UN peacekeepers. He also called for the oil-for-food program to be expanded and kept under UN control.

Blair called postwar Iraq a key test of the ability of the world's most powerful nations to cooperate against the threats facing the world, and said there had to be give and take on both sides.

He also said the U.S.-led coalition must be prepared to accept a vital role for the United Nations while the countries that oppose the war in Iraq need to understand that the coalition will not rush to surrender control of the country, for which its soldiers shed blood.