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Russia: Chances Improved for Peaceful Resolution of Iraq Crisis - 2003-02-15

Russian officials say chances have improved for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis during Friday's United Nations Security Council meeting. Russia's top diplomats say they're encouraged, but they add that Baghdad must do more as well. Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov says that based on the report from the chief arms inspectors at the U.N. on Friday, there are no grounds for taking military action against Iraq.

But he added that, "the use of force does remain in the Security Council's arsenal."

Moscow has long opposed any military action without explicit U.N. approval, while at the same time encouraging Baghdad to be more cooperative with the inspectors.

Mr. Fedotov's comments echo those of Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who received applause after he told the Security Council that the arms inspectors are making progress.

The United States had hoped the latest report from the inspectors would bolster its case for military action.

Mr. Ivanov returned to Moscow from New York on Saturday, saying the arms inspectors need more time to continue their work.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people demonstrated near the U.S. embassy in downtown Moscow to protest against a possible war.

The protest was led by the Communist Party, whose leader, Gennady Zyuganov, said the world community must oppose what he called the U.S. war machine.

The demonstration was one of dozens taking place around the world Saturday.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia could veto any new resolution authorizing force, if it comes to that.

But Moscow has signaled that it might support military action if it becomes clear that Baghdad is hiding banned weapons, or that it intends to use them.