Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev, in the midst of an official visit to France, yesterday proposed that Russian reconnaissance aircraft might replace the American U-2’s currently operating over Iraq. Sergeev supplied no details as to either the type of aircraft he was proposing be used or the manner in which logistical support might be organized for them. Iraq has at various times objected to the presence of the American planes, which are serving UN efforts to monitor sites where Iraq might be storing weapons of mass destruction. Sergeev suggested that the use of Russian aircraft would not represent a fundamental concession by the UN to Iraq, and said that it was necessary for the world community to show flexibility in dealing with the crisis in the Persian Gulf. (Reuter, UPI, Itar-Tass, January 5)
It was unclear yesterday if Sergeev’s proposal was made with official backing from the Kremlin. In any event, the proposal is unlikely to be viewed with enthusiasm in Washington, where, among other things, government officials oppose any further enlargement of Russia’s role in the Iraqi-UN conflict. Russia, along with France and China, have been the primary advocates on the UN Security Council of a more conciliatory approach toward Baghdad.
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