Russia now says it might be willing to consider a new United Nations resolution on weapons inspection in Iraq. Moscow has previously rejected the idea, but officials says they might be willing to compromise under certain conditions.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says the first condition is that the U.N. Security Council must first hear from Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
Chairman Blix, who brokered an agreement for the resumption of U.N. weapons inspections, is to brief council members Thursday in New York on the status of the inspectors' return to Baghdad after a four-year absence.
Mr. Ivanov says if, after hearing Mr. Blix's report, it is found that a new United Nations resolution is needed in order for inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction more effectively, he says Russia will be ready to consider it.
Mr. Ivanov, who spoke to reporters Wednesday in Moscow after talks with Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, added that at the moment, such discussion was "premature."
Russia has welcomed the agreement reached in Vienna Tuesday to allow the resumption of U.N. weapons inspections.
In Washington today, President George W. Bush's spokesman said the administration sees Iraq's latest agreement to allow inspections as "a ploy to string-out the world as they build-up their arms." Spokesman Ari Fleischer said without a new resolution, the return of inspectors would mark a repeat of what he called the "fruitless and ineffective cat-and-mouse games that marked the inspection regime in the 90s."
Russia, which has close economic ties with Iraq, has been in a diplomatic stand-off with the United States and Britain, who prefer a new tougher resolution on Iraq, with strict timelines for inspections and potential military consequences.