Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says Russia does not support any United Nations resolution that could open the way to military action to disarm Iraq. Mr. Ivanov says Russia might use its veto to block a U.N. resolution if such a veto is necessary to preserve international stability.
His comments in Beijing come a day after China and Russia issued a joint statement that war in Iraq "can and should be avoided."
Washington is seeking support for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow military action. Russia, China and France all oppose military action at this time, and instead support a resolution that would continue U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq for at least four more months.
Baghdad promised to give up its weapons of mass destruction at the end of the Gulf War, but Washington says that many resolutions and 12 years later, Iraq still possesses such weapons, and is hiding them from the U.N. inspectors who are supposed to make sure they have been destroyed.
Washington needs nine votes on the 15-member Security Council to get its new measure passed, but at present can count on only four votes, including its own. Even if Washington finds the nine votes, a resolution could be vetoed by any of the permanent Council members - including Russia, China and France.
Turning to the crisis in North Korea, Mr. Ivanov criticized Pyongyang for using "threatening methods" in the dispute over its suspected nuclear ambitions.
The dispute began in October, when Washington said North Korea was violating international agreements with a secret program to build nuclear weapons. North Korea recently re-started a banned nuclear reactor, which experts say can produce material that can be processed into weapons-grade plutonium.