President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to work toward a solution on Iraq. The leaders spoke by telephone hours in advance of the U.N. Security Council discussion of a new U.S.-backed draft resolution that could pave the way for war.
A Kremlin statement says the two leaders agreed to speed-up efforts within the U.N. Security Council, in the hopes of finding a plan of action on Iraq that would be acceptable to all.
The statement says the phone call took place at Washington's request. It comes one day after President Putin issued his first public comments on the latest U.S.-backed draft U.N. resolution, which he dismissed as a "bad solution."
His comments came during late night talks at the Kremlin Wednesday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and just hours before the Security Council was to begin discussing the draft, sponsored by Britain, the United States and Spain, which could pave the way for military action against Iraq.
The Russian and German leaders remained firm in their opposition to war as a way to compel Iraq to disarm, and urged Baghdad to comply fully with international weapons inspectors.
President Putin has welcomed U.S. pressure on Iraq, saying it is producing results. But he is quoted as having said that pressure is only proper, as long as it does not lead to war.
Russia has consistently objected to any resolution that would automatically authorize the use of force, and has increased diplomatic efforts to gain support for Moscow's anti-war views, shared by France, as well as Germany.
Those opposed to force support an extended inspections mandate. But the United States, Britain and Spain say Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has had more than enough time to disarm, and that it is clear he has no intention of doing so of his own accord.
According to the Kremlin statement, in Thursday's phone call, Presidents Putin and Bush also discussed the North Korean nuclear crisis, and agreed it must be resolved through diplomatic means.
Russia has urged the United States to open direct talks with the communist North. But Washington is opposed, preferring a multi-lateral approach.