U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton says he is confident that Russia and the United States will be able to reach agreement over Iraq.
At the end of three days of talks in Moscow, Mr. Bolton told reporters Washington will be sending envoys to Moscow in the next few weeks to discuss the situation in Iraq. He emphasized that Russian concerns over Iraq would be listened to before any action is taken. "As in the case of the Persian Gulf crisis 12 years ago, there are obviously issues and concerns that the government of Russia has and those will be addressed seriously by the United States," he said.
Mr. Bolton said there have already been intense discussions between the Russian and U.S. presidents over this issue and more are sure to follow.
Russia has been opposed to a unilateral strike against Iraq, and has been pushing for the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq. In a speech to the United Nations on Thursday, President Bush called on the organization to confront Iraq over weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Bolton said Washington would not be making any deals with Russia over the Iraq issue.
He said Washington has no plans to ignore a possible Russian military strike against suspected Chechen rebel strongholds in Georgia in return for Russian approval of a possible U.S. attack against Iraq. "I think this affront to the authority of the Security Council is too serious to be the subject of quid pro quo deals," he said. "I don't think that's expected on the Russian side or the American side."
Mr. Bolton added that the U.S. case against Iraq is strong and stands on its own merits.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Georgia of harboring Chechen terrorists and said he is considering a military strike to root them out. The announcement was harshly criticized by the United States.