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Russia Wants to Ensure Collection of Iraqi Debts - 2003-05-15

A senior Russian official says the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq hinges on whether Russia could still collect Iraqi debts. His remarks follow a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Moscow.

Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov told reporters in Moscow Thursday that Russia stands by its demand that the contracts that Russian companies signed with Saddam Hussein's regime must be honored.

Mr. Mamedov said it is only natural for Russia to expect its legal interests to be honored in post-war Iraq, along with the interests of other nations.

The issue has been a key sticking point in recent discussions on Iraq between Washington and Moscow, with Moscow favoring a return of international weapons inspectors to Iraq before the sanctions could be lifted.

Mr. Mamedov's comments are the first public indication that Russia may oppose the resolution if its financial concerns are not satisfied.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell left Moscow for Bulgaria Thursday, saying the United States is working toward a resolution that could gain unanimous support in the Security Council. He also welcomed what he called Russia's spirit of cooperation during his two days of talks.