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Russia's Foreign Minister Hints at Possible Veto of 2nd UN Iraq Resolution - 2003-03-04

Permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain and Russia remain split over the Iraq crisis.

In diplomatic language, Mr. Straw and Mr. Ivanov agreed that they share the same objective in Iraq disarmament of Saddam Hussein. But on the strategy of how to reach that goal, they remain opposed.

The two men said in a news conference after their talks that the subject of a second Security Council resolution did not even come up.

That draft resolution is sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain and it could be used as a final authorization for the use of military force.

Earlier, Mr. Straw told the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee that Britain reserved the right to go to war under certain conditions even if the second resolution were to be vetoed.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Ivanov said this was not part of U.N. resolution 1441, the latest international directive to Iraqi to disarm.

"We made it clear, interpretative statement, saying that it does not contain any provisions authorizing automatic use of force," Mr. Ivanov said.

The Russian foreign minister says his country is still not ruling out the use of its veto on the key second resolution that could come up for a vote next week. Asked about a possible abstention, Mr. Ivanov said that does not seem likely right now.

"There are certain issues when it is desirable that there will be no abstainees among the Security Council members, permanent members, because those are serious issues," he said.

Mr. Ivanov said he believes the weapons inspectors' report due at the Security Council at the end of this week will provide for a timetable for continued inspections. On the basis of that, he says, Russia will demand that the inspectors keep working.