U.S. to Call for U.N. Vote Next Week on Lifting Sanctions; Powell, Putin Try to Patch Up Differences over Oil, Arms Inspectors
Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
MOSCOW - The United States plans to call for a vote next week on its U.N. resolution to lift sanctions on Iraq, officials said yesterday after a meeting between Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Powell told reporters that the two countries still have "outstanding issues" on the Security Council resolution, which Russia has been unwilling to approve before a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
But U.S. officials said later that Washington feels confident that it will gather enough support to pass the measure despite the veto power held by Russia and France, both of which opposed the Iraq war.
U.N. diplomats said the United States may be moving closer to the position of France, which has proposed a temporary suspension of the sanctions.
The sticking point now is the exact duration of the suspension, they said.
However, Mr. Powell acknowledged that there were "some outstanding issues and we will be working on these issues in the spirit of partnership in trying to come to a solution."
One of those issues is Moscow's demand that U.N. weapons inspectors certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction before the sanctions are lifted.
Washington has until now insisted that its own inspection teams conduct the search, though a senior U.S. official traveling with Mr. Powell said on the way to Moscow that U.N. inspectors "may have a role to play" at some point.
The official also said that "a whole basket of issues related to oil" remains to be resolved.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov told reporters that his country has $4 billion worth of contracts under the U.N. oil-for-food program that have been approved but not implemented. The program expires on June 3.
"This is a very difficult resolution for us," he said of the U.S. plan for lifting the sanctions, noting that Russia's most pressing task is to "minimize" its negative economic and political effects.
U.S. officials said Washington was open to amendments in the text and were optimistic yesterday that they would successfully negotiate the measure in the next few days.
"We think we should be able to get the support to pass the resolution with amendments to the text," one official said. …