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Russia Hints at Possible Deal Over Lifting Iraq Sanctions - 2003-05-20

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says a deal could be reached as early as this week on a new U.N. resolution to lift sanctions on Iraq. Mr. Ivanov issued the assessment during a speech in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign minister told an audience at Kiev's Institute of International Relations that he could not rule out the possibility that a settlement on the latest diplomatic stand-off over Iraq could be very close.

The United States is hoping to push through a vote on a new draft resolution on Iraq that would lift the sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait, and extend the United Nations-run oil-for-food program for another six months.

The draft also further details the role of the United Nations in post-war Iraq, a key sticking point for council members Russia and France, who are asking for changes in the new resolution.

But unlike in the early days of the standoff, before the U.S.-led war in Iraq, Russia has not threatened to use its veto power. Officials in Moscow have said only that there are still what they describe as differences over the resolution between the United States and Russia.

Russian officials have repeatedly stated, since the war, that they would not like to see such differences damage the U.S.-Russian relationship, especially as the two country's presidents are to meet for summit talks in St. Petersburg in less than two weeks.

Mr. Ivanov echoed that theme in Kiev. He said Russia does not believe that different views on ways to settle the crisis should lead to a confrontation in international relations.

At the same time, he again noted Russia's objection to a predominant U.S. role in post-war Iraq. As Mr. Ivanov put it, the United States is not the only pole that determines world politics. There are many other poles, he said.