Russia ‘prepared to use veto’


The United States, Britain and Spain have proposed a resolution declaring that Iraq has missed its last chance to disarm. If approved, it could clear the way for a U.S.-led war on Iraq, which Russia, France and China oppose.

“We will consider any new resolutions that support the weapons inspectors’ work. But we will not support any resolutions that directly or indirectly authorize using force against Iraq,” Ivanov told a Beijing news conference following two days of meetings with Chinese officials.

“We hold veto power. We would use it if it were for maintaining world stability.”

The Security Council is in the midst of a fractious debate over the proposed follow-up to U.N. Resolution 1441, which allowed weapons inspectors into Iraq.

Russia, France and rotating council member Germany have proposed extending inspections and beefing up inspectors’ staff, equipment and surveillance capabilities before resorting to war.

Some of the non-permanent members of the Security Council are backing a Canadian plan that would give Iraq a specific list of tasks to accomplish by March 28 to demonstrate its commitment to disarmament.

On Thursday Ivanov and his Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, issued a communiqué following talks in the Chinese capital explaining that both Moscow and Beijing support fully implementing Resolution 1441 instead of adopting a new resolution.

“Russia does not think it’s necessary to adopt any new resolutions right now,” Ivanov told reporters. “The inspectors on the ground have the power and have been provided with proper conditions to work.

“Today we have all the necessary conditions to resolve this problem using political means. And the international community must not miss this opportunity.”

Ivanov said he is suspicious of the U.S. argument for a new resolution and the call for regime change.

“Recently the issue has become less the matter of disarming Iraq than about the change of regime in the country,” Ivanov said. “At the same time claims are being made that there is no interest in Iraqi oil.”

The Russian foreign minister then said the United States is now trying to sell the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a means of promoting Arab democracy.

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute this week, U.S. President George W. Bush said ending Saddam’s threat would bring stability to the entire Mideast.

CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty said Russia has made previous statements about being prepared to use its veto if necessary, but that Ivanov’s statement “went further than anyone on the Russian side” so far.

“He went on to say it appears that the U.S. and Britain have already decided what to do,” she said. There are two things Russia doesn’t want, she said: a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force, and a statement that calls for regime change in Iraq.

On the North Korean nuclear issue, Ivanov said Russia and China could play a role to promote diplomatic dialogue, but said the key issue was for direct dialogue to take place between Washington and Pyongyang.

— CNN producer Steven Jiang contributed to this report

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