Putin Calls for Speedy Lifting of UN Sanctions against Iraq
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his desire for a speedy lifting of UN sanctions against Baghdad in a letter to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Kremlin announced Wednesday.
In the message, delivered to the Iraqi leader by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Tuesday, Putin also called for a halt to US-British bombing raids against Iraq, said a statement faxed to AFP.
Putin "stated the Russian leadership's firm intention to obtain a rapid political settlement to the Iraqi problem, including the lifting of sanctions against Iraq," according to the statement.
"The importance was stressed of launching a constructive dialogue between Iraq and the UN about implementing the international community's resolutions, as well as the need to halt the illegal bombing of Iraqi territory in the so-called no-fly zones," it added.
Iraq does not recognize the zones, imposed in both northern and southern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait, which are not authorized by any specific UN resolution.
It has challenged the planes on a nearly daily basis since the United States and Britain launched air raids in December 1998.
Speaking at a press conference with Ivanov in Baghdad Tuesday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz reiterated Iraq's rejection of UN Security Council resolution 1284, passed in December last year.
It offered to suspend the 10-year-old sanctions regime, imposed following Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, if Iraq cooperates fully with arms inspectors verifying the elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
"Iraq's position on resolution 1284 has not changed," he charged, demanding that "air raids be halted and the embargo lifted".
Iraq has said it would not work with the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
On the agreement struck Monday in Qatar between Iraqi officials and the United Nations for a "comprehensive dialogue" after an almost year-long stalemate, Aziz said "if the UN secretary general is ready to start an open dialogue without preconditions, we are ready." – MOSCOW (AFP)
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