Bush calls Putin to discuss Iraq
MOSCOW, Russia -- The leaders of America and Russia have agreed to take into account "the interests of the entire international community" as they work towards a solution to the Iraq crisis, Moscow says.
U.S. President George W. Bush reached out to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday as Washington worked to persuade Russia, China and France not to veto a new U.N. resolution on Iraq, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
The two men spoke by phone "at the initiative of the American side," the report said.
Bush and Putin "expressed determination to intensify work at the U.N. Security Council with the purpose of developing a plan of action that would guarantee the interests of the entire international community," Interfax quoted a statement from the Russian presidential press service as saying.
They also discussed North Korea and agreed that they "favored diplomatic means of improving the situation," Interfax said, adding that they reaffirmed a strategy of preserving and advancing bilateral cooperation between the United States and Russia.
Earlier Thursday, Russia and China repeated calls for a "political solution" to the Iraq crisis but avoided saying whether they might use their U.N. vetoes to block a second resolution.
In a statement issued in Beijing, the foreign ministers of the two countries said they shared the belief that war "can and should be avoided," adding that U.N. weapons inspectors should be given enough time to fully carry out their job.
The communiqué issued by Russian Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, said both sides supported the full implementation of U.N. Resolution 1441 -- which calls for weapons inspections in Iraq -- instead of adopting a new resolution, the position supported by the United States and Britain.
"Both sides reiterate their determination to render their full efforts for promoting a political solution to the Iraqi issue," Xinhua news agency quoted the communiqué as saying.
The statement also rejected U.S.-led moves to introduce a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq, saying existing resolutions provide the "necessary legal basis for tackling the issue."
Tang and Ivanov urged the Security Council to enhance its support and guidance of weapons inspections in Iraq, Xinhua said.
Russia and China are both permanent veto-carrying members of the Security Council, meaning that just one of them could, in theory, strike down a second resolution.
That would create a diplomatic problem for Washington and London, which would then have to decide whether to proceed with an attack in the face of open opposition from other U.N. members.
Speaking to CNN Thursday, a Western diplomatic source said China had already indicated to the United States that it would not veto a resolution and Russia was also not expected to make such a move.
However, the diplomat said that France -- the fifth and final permanent member of the Security Council -- still remained a veto threat.
A vote on the proposed resolution -- which could clear the way for a U.S.-led war with Iraq -- is expected to come soon after March 7 when chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is scheduled to deliver a progress report to the Security Council.