Over the past several days, to the surprise of no one, Russian political leaders have urged the UN Security Council both to launch a quick review of Iraq’s compliance with disarmament resolutions and to lift international sanctions on Baghdad as soon as possible. These exhortations from Moscow come in the wake of both talks between Russian leaders and Chief UN Arms Inspector Richard Butler on December 4, and another round of consultations in the Russian capital yesterday between Kremlin officials and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
Few details about the Butler talks were available, but Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested afterward that, from Moscow’s perspective, they had been quite constructive. “It is difficult to speak of breakthroughs,” Ivanov told reporters, but “we can confidently claim that we are [now] at the end of the road rather than at the beginning of it.” Ivanov suggested that the review of Iraq’s compliance with UN resolutions–an action long sought by Baghdad and Moscow–could begin in the coming weeks. He also said that Iraq had gone a long way toward fulfilling disarmament demands in its nuclear, chemical and missile programs, but that “more questions remain” with regard to Iraqi biological weapons. Following his talks yesterday with Aziz, Ivanov nevertheless announced to reporters Moscow’s belief that “sanctions against Iraq will soon be lifted” (Russian agencies, December 4; Itar-Tass, December 7).
MANEUVERING CONTINUES OVER IRAQ PROCESS.