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Moscow Praises Iraqi Decision to Readmit Inspectors - 2002-09-17

Russia has praised Iraq's decision to allow weapons inspectors back into the country, saying the move will help avert a war in the region.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement saying Baghdad's decision opens the way to a political resolution of the Iraq issue.

The statement also says the decision should pave the way for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq dating back to the Gulf War.

At the United Nations in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia has always wanted to get inspectors back into Iraq.

He said everything must now be done to send inspection teams to Baghdad for what he called the important, difficult job they have to do.

Russia strongly opposes the use of force against Iraq, and has often expressed the need to end the sanctions because of the suffering they cause Iraqi civilians.

Moscow wants the sanctions lifted in part because it has strong economic interests in Iraq, including a multi-billion dollar debt owed by Baghdad, which dates from Soviet times.