Russian deputy foreign minister Viktor Posuvalyuk yesterday underscored what he described as Moscow’s intermediary role in the Iraqi-U.S. dispute, telling reporters that Russia seeks to calm tensions in the Persian Gulf and to resolve differences there through political negotiation. His remarks came after he had talked in Moscow with Iraqi deputy foreign minister Riad al-Qaysi. Posuvalyuk suggested that the policy of restraint adopted by Baghdad at Moscow’s behest had cleared the way for resuscitating Iraq’s "oil-for food" deal with the UN and that it would also facilitate a return to normal working conditions for the UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq’s Weapons, headed by Rolf Ekeus. According to Posuvalyuk, he had counseled his Iraqi guest that progress in these two areas would open the way to a complete lifting of sanctions on Baghdad. Posuvalyuk said, finally, that Russia had moved immediately to inform interested parties, including U.S. ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering, of the outcome of yesterday’s talks. (Interfax, September 17)
But Riad al-Qaysi, in his own remarks to the press, seemed little affected by Posuvalyuk’s talk of moderation. The Iraqi diplomat praised Russia for defending Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity, for denouncing the U.S. missile strikes on Iraq, and for warning Washington against a further escalation of military actions. Moscow and Baghdad, he said, hold similar view on developments in Iraq. For good measure, Riad al-Qaysi also ripped the Ekeus commission, charging that a number of its members had engaged in espionage activities against Iraq, and suggested that Baghdad remained ambivalent about the "oil-for-food" deal because of oversight procedures demanded by the U.S. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, September 17)
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