Russia rejects new Iraqi sanctions
UNITED NATIONS -- Russia has told the U.N. Security Council it will not support its proposed changes to the Iraqi sanctions regime.
The U.S., backed by Britain, wants to overhaul the sanctions, imposed by the U.N. after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says Moscow will reject the new measures if the resolution goes to a vote.
"We cannot allow it to pass," Ivanov said in a weekend letter to the U.S., Britain, France and China -- who along with Russia make up the permanent members of the 15-nation council.
Ivanov did not use the word "veto" but council diplomats told Reuters news agency it was clear Moscow was threatening to sabotage the measure.
"This is not a negotiating stance. This is what they plan to do," said one council member, quoted on Tuesday.
Iraq says the sanctions are hitting civilians. Washington and London say they are needed to stop Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction.
Russia is Iraq's closest ally on the council and wants embargoes halted rather than changed. Last week Ivanov said Moscow would offer an alternative to the U.S.-British proposal.
News of Russia's position came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted that the council might not meet its self-imposed July 3 deadline for adopting revised sanctions.
"We have been unable to resolve all the technical issues," he told Reuters. "If no resolution is arrived at, we will have to figure out what to do -- how to extend the current situation and how long."
The central issue is a resolution to ease restrictions on civilian goods, enforce bans on military hardware and clarify "dual use" supplies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes.
If an agreement on changes to the sanctions is not reached, the council is likely to continue the current oil-for-food programme.
A December 1999 resolution -- which Russia wants to refine -- demanded that in order to suspend sanctions, Iraq must allow U.N. arms inspectors back into the country to check on its "weapons of mass destruction" programmes.
U.N. inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq since they left in December 1998.
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