13 March 200311:45



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Unofficial translation from Russian

Question: It is presumed that the UK, the US and Spain will insist on the adoption of a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq. Is Russia prepared to agree to the adoption of that new resolution?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: The latest developments: the UN Security Council meeting held on March 7 at foreign ministers' level, the intensive contacts, in the first place between presidents and prime ministers, and diplomatic activity have led to the fact that it has been possible to put off the imminent danger of war a little bit. The sponsors of the draft resolution submitted to the UN Security Council gave up their intention to take a vote on March 11. There is talk that changes may be made to the draft. We, of course, will be ready to acquaint ourselves with the new proposals, but the position of Russia remains invariable. We do not consider that there is a need for a new UNSC resolution right now. The UN inspectors' mandate has been explicitly defined by Resolutions 1284 and 1441. So at present it is necessary to target efforts for support of their work in Iraq. With regard to attempts to submit ultimatum draft resolutions that would automatically open the way to war, Russia, certainly, will resist them most resolutely.

Question: Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly said in conversation with US President George W. Bush that Russia will not use its veto in the UN Security Council vote on a new resolution. At the same time Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov has declared that, if that resolution is put to the vote, Russia will use its veto. Please clarify the stand of Moscow in this matter.

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Recently there has been a lot of speculation going on around the acute Iraq crisis, plus conjectures and attempts to misinform public opinion. Russia is not retreating from its position of refusal to back ultimatums. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov unequivocally stated that Russia will vote against that draft resolution.

Question: In what case might Russia agree to the adoption of the new resolution?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Theoretically such options are there, but they are not connected with plans to adopt a resolution which would give go-ahead to the start of a war in Iraq. If Dr. Hans Blix submits to the UN Security Council a work program which will contain key tasks in the field of Iraq's disarmament, then, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1284, that work program has to be approved by the Council. That is, a resolution could, at a certain stage, be required. But it is not about a resolution opening the way for war.

Question: If the new resolution calls for the international inspectors to continue their work in Iraq, will Russia be ready to consider it?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Yes, if the resolution is directed toward continuation of the inspectors' work. Its adoption is directly envisaged by UN Security Council Resolution 1284.

Question: The US and the UK accused Iraq of misinformation. The latest report by Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei has convinced us of the opposite; rumors about the development of Iraq's nuclear program haven't been confirmed. To what extent can the US and the UK be trusted? It turns out that they too are misinforming the world community?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: The main point I would like to stress is that Dr. ElBaradei on March 7 during the UN Security Council meeting said that regarding the nuclear dossier of Iraq the questions had been removed. All the problems linked to aluminum tubes and to possible attempts to acquire uranium, as well as high power magnates had been cleared up. IAEA, he said, had no more questions. Thus, the nuclear dossier can be regarded as closed. Of course, long-term monitoring has to start working, but that's another matter.

Question: Is the military pressure being put on Iraq not contrary to the Charter of the United Nations? US soldiers reportedly are already on Iraqi soil, both in the north and in the south.

Deputy Minister Fedotov: The government of Iraq does not control the north of the country. It is possible that not only US troops are there. I do not know if the claims are justified as to the American presence, but troops from some neighbor countries do appear there from time to time. Yet it is generally undeniable that the deployment of the military task force in the region is an important factor of political pressure on Iraq. Just as the intensive diplomatic work of Russia and other states with the Iraqi leadership, the military presence conditions the more active cooperation by Iraq with the UN. So the problem is not the military presence itself, but that it should not develop into military action.

Question: Is the United States' demand that Saddam Hussein be removed from power consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and UNSCR 1441?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: That demand is in line with neither Resolution 1441 nor any other resolutions of the UN Security Council on Iraq. This is an internal matter of Iraq. The Iraqi people must decide the question.

Question: Rumor has it that Yevgeny Primakov and Gennady Seleznyov visited Iraq in order to persuade Saddam to quit. Is that true?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Official explanations have been given on this question. Russia does not engage in persuasion of this kind. That's an internal matter of the Iraqi people.

Question: UN Ssecurity Council Resolution 687 envisages freeing the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is complying with this resolution, unlike some other countries of the region, I mean Israel. Will any measures be taken against Israel in this connection?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Undoubtedly, item 14 of UN Security Council resolution 687 on the steps to establish in the region a zone free of WMDs retains its importance. However, the establishment of that zone must become a subject of negotiations. The decision on the creation of a zone free of WMDs has to be supported by the countries of the region. The complete liquidation of WMDs in Iraq in compliance with the UNSC resolutions will create favorable prospects for the advancement of this goal. Russia, for its part, will assist this.

Question: Russia is taking steps for the prevention of war. But if a war breaks out, what will the actions of Russia be?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Russia is figuring out all possible steps. But we do not like to speak on this theme so as not to give the impression that we have put up with the inevitability of a military scenario. The last few days' events indicate that, far from diminishing, the chance of a political settlement is, on the contrary, increasing. Therefore we are directing all our diplomatic efforts towards the prevention of war. We will be doing that until there remains the slightest possibility of a political solution of the problem.

Question: Whereas the events of September 11 united the world community in the fight against terrorism, now the international alliance may be split. Do you agree with this?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Yes, I do. A possible military operation would be a great mistake, as the threat of terrorism would not become reduced but actually would grow. Additional sources of extremism and violence would arise, with which a struggle would have to be waged. We are openly saying this to our US partners, warning them that the consequences of that mistake could be very grave. It is therefore important now to proceed along the road which, even if not as fast as we would like, does lead to a clear goal - the disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means in accordance with the UNSC resolutions. Progress is evident on this road, notably the beginning of the process of real disarmament.

Question: The line-up of forces in the world shows that the unipolar world order has not acquitted itself. That is, the matter is about building a new multipolar world order.

Deputy Minister Fedotov: Behind the Iraq crisis stand larger-scale problems than stability in the Gulf region and in the Middle East. At issue is the formation of a new world order under the new conditions, how states in these conditions will together cope with present-day challenges and threats. That is, on what model of action is chosen now much will depend in the future. That is why we underscore the importance of observing the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter. At this moment the position of a majority of the members of the United Nations leads to the fact that the supporters of force-based decisions have to figure out all the adverse consequences of military action. We consider that there can be no overestimating the talk that should an operation be undertaken in circumvention of the UN Security Council the authority of the UN will be completely undermined. The UN is a world organization which is indispensable for the international community. It makes it possible to work out joint decisions on the entire range of questions, from political to security, economic and other issues. Therefore the UN will be preserved. In the past too, when there were instances of actions in circumvention of the UN Security Council, in the end the question returned to the legal field of the UN.

Question: In its time Washington promised Moscow a lot, for example, abolition of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, and so on. What can Russia lose if it votes against the will of the US?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: No state, even the most powerful state, can live in a vacuum. In bilateral relations both states gain by their partnership. We consider that Russian-American relations are of far greater importance than today's crisis. We've got many joint things to do ahead. It is the realization of the SOR Treaty, the question of settlement in the Middle East, where our countries are playing an active role. It is the situation in Afghanistan, the joint fight against international terrorism. We are interested in strengthening relations with the US. As partners we say, without seeking to fan up a confrontation between us, that in the situation around Iraq, the US is making a mistake.

Question: How linked are the problems of Iraqi and Middle East settlement?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: These issues are certainly interlinked. We fear that a military scenario in the situation around Iraq will affect adversely the state of affairs in the Middle East. A heavy negative critical mass may be created that will explode the region. This is one of the arguments against military action in Iraq.

Question: How justified is the US talk about a political reorganization of the Arab world, about its democratization?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: I consider that this matter belongs to the peoples of the region, who must take the decisions which they deem necessary.

Question: The US is pursuing a policy of "double standards." Why does it treat the problem of North Korea and of Iraq differently?

Deputy Minister Fedotov: The situation around the nuclear problem of North Korea is sufficiently acute. At the same time, it too must be resolved by political means. This is an additional example of the fact that unpredictability and the threat of force objectively push certain countries towards the possession of WMDs. If they have those weapons, they will feel more protected. This is a dangerous tendency. The problem of the nonproliferation of WMDs should be looked at in broader terms, because this is an acute threat to world stability. We hope that the North Korean problem, just as the Iraqi, will be tackled by political means without the use of force.

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