Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday called on UN weapons inspectors to speed up their work in Iraq in order to make possible an early lifting of sanctions on Baghdad. Primakov also reiterated Moscow’s long-standing position that the crisis in the Persian Gulf should be resolved by political means without any resort to military force. (AP, Russian agencies, December 23) The U.S., which has differed sharply with Moscow on UN policy toward Iraq, has pursued a harder line that would make the use of force an option. Washington has also suggested that it could take unilateral actions in that direction should Iraq continue to defy the UN weapons inspectors.
Primakov’s remarks yesterday follow a report to the UN Security Council last week by Richard Butler, the chief UN weapons inspector. Butler outlined several areas in which Iraq continued to obstruct the activities of the inspectors, and his report led the Security Council on December 22 to issue a statement criticizing Iraq. The efforts of Russia, along with China and France, resulted in the UN statement containing weaker language than had been called for by Washington. Baghdad yesterday accused Butler of having distorted Iraq’s position in his report to the Security Council. (AP, December 23)
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