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Russia Ready for Talks on Boosting UN Presence in Iraq

Russia says it is ready for constructive negotiations on a new Security Council resolution aimed at boosting the United Nations presence in post-war Iraq. Russian officials believe such a resolution could be put to a vote as early as this week.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov says Russia wants to work with the United States and other nations on a new resolution to establish a U.N. presence in Iraq. Washington is reportedly planning to submit a draft resolution later this week. The Russian diplomat says consultations are already under way on the resolution.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Fedotov said that Russia considers Iraq's Governing Council as a first step in forming, what he called, a truly representative and legitimate government in Iraq. He said setting up such a government is essential in order to completely restore Iraq's sovereignty.

The United States has said elections could be held in Iraq sometime by the middle of next year.

Under current U.N. resolution 1483, the U.N. role in Iraq is limited largely to providing humanitarian assistance. Moscow has circulated its own draft of a new resolution that would establish a U.N. mission in the country.

Russia is siding with France and China in calling for a more central role for the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq and returning it to full sovereignty. All three countries hold veto-wielding seats on the Security Council.

Russian oil companies made extensive investments in Iraq under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, and analysts in Moscow see Russia's latest diplomatic initiative as aiming to insure its economic interests are taken into account in the process of Iraq's reconstruction.