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Russia Opposes UN Iraq Deadline

Russian officials have come out strongly against a proposal backed by the United States, Britain and Spain to set a March 17 deadline for Iraq to comply with U.N. disarmament demands.

The newest U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday. But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says Moscow will not support the draft.

He says it contains a de-facto ultimatum paving the way to war, which Russia believes is unjustified and inadvisable.

Mr. Ivanov says Russia continues to support the view that no new resolutions are needed - only more time to enable existing resolutions to work. He also warned President Bush that any use of force against Iraq, without prior U.N. approval, would violate the U.N. Charter.

Mr. Ivanov's remarks were broadcast on Russian state television Saturday. The interview was conducted in New York, where Mr. Ivanov attended Friday's U.N. Security Council session.

At the meeting, Britain, the United States and Spain proposed giving Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a 10-day deadline to comply with U.N. weapons inspections, or face military action.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Yuri Fedotov, was equally critical of the resolution in an interview with Russia's Interfax news agency.

Mr. Fedotov said Russia's reaction is, as he put it, extremely negative. He says the resolution would lead to war and the end of international weapons inspections, which Russia and other nations believe are making progress.

Mr. Fedotov says Russia still believes a political settlement on Iraq is possible, and that it would be wrong to discard any chance for peace. As such, he says, Russia will do everything in its power to block passage of the resolution.