Russia is objecting to what Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says is outside pressure on U.N. weapons inspectors to produce reports that could be used as a pretext for war against Iraq. It is not the first time Moscow has alleged that pressure is being exerted on the inspectors, but Mr. Ivanov's remarks were his strongest.
Mr. Ivanov says the international inspectors are experiencing, what he called, "very heavy pressure," in order to provoke their departure from Iraq, as happened in 1998. Or, he says, to provoke them to present to the U.N. Security Council assessments that could be used as an excuse for the use of force against Iraq.
He urged the inspectors to continue to work objectively.
Russia has long opposed a military solution to the standoff with Iraq, and Mr. Ivanov again stressed the belief that the crisis can be solved diplomatically.
But he says the burden will have to be borne by both the international community, whom he urged to cooperate fully by helping, not hindering, the international inspection process. Mr. Ivanov said Baghdad also has a role to play.
The Russian foreign minister is urging Baghdad to provide all necessary cooperation to the international inspectors and to show "maximum openness."
In reports to the Security Council, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has spoken of increased Iraqi willingness to cooperate with the mission. At the same time, Mr. Blix has noted certain shortcomings.
There has been some discussion that the United States could call for a new Security Council resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq under certain unspecified conditions. But no new draft has been presented.
Mr. Ivanov says Russia remains opposed to any resolutions endorsing the use of force. But he adds that Moscow has no objections to examining a new resolution if it is aimed at helping the inspection process.