During a Russian television interview broadcast yesterday, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov renewed Moscow’s attack on UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler and restated Russia’s demand for a new monitoring system to oversee the disarmament of Iraq. Ivanov said that Butler had discredited himself with his “provocational acts.” He also suggested that the Australian diplomat’s role was already irrelevant to current UN Security Council efforts to devise a new arms monitoring system in Iraq. Ivanov said much the same about UNSCOM, which he suggested also does not figure in Security Council discussions (NTV, February 9).
Ivanov’s remarks come only days after Butler made clear that he will step aside as UNSCOM chief when his two-year contract expires in June. Butler has been the object of almost constant attacks by Moscow, and particularly by Russia’s UN Ambassador, Sergei Lavrov. France and China have joined Russia in criticizing Butler, a development which ensured that the Australian diplomat would not be invited to continue in the UNSCOM post. The acrimony between Lavrov and Butler became very public late last month when Butler launched a few salvos of his own at Lavrov, accusing the Russian diplomat of having lied in order to discredit Butler and UNSCOM. Moscow, not surprisingly, angrily denounced Butler’s remarks (see the Monitor, January 29).
Ivanov’s TV interview came as Kuwaiti First Deputy Prime Minister Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah wound up several days of official talks in the Russian capital. The Kuwaiti official held talks with Ivanov while he was in Russia, and with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov (who co-chairs a Russian-Kuwait economic cooperation commission), and State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev. Throughout his stay in the capital Russian officials attempted to underscore Russia’s role as a Middle East peace maker and as a friend to Kuwait and a guarantor of its territorial integrity. The two sides discussed an agreement on avoiding double taxation. They also reportedly held talks on bilateral military-technical cooperation, but few details on the substance of those discussions are available (Russian agencies, February 8-9).
RUSSIA: BACK AND FORTH ON START II.