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Russia vows to block resolution

Ivanov: Not heard
Ivanov: Not heard "serious arguments for the use of force"

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russia has said for the first time it will vote against a new resolution on Iraq at the U.N. Security Council, a move that could veto the U.S.-sponsored measure.

Nine votes are needed to pass the resolution, but it could still be vetoed by a negative vote from any of the council's five permanent members, such as Russia, France and China.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Monday that Russia had not heard any reason for using force against Iraq and that there was no need for another resolution.

The U.S. and British-backed amendment gives Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a March 17 deadline to disarm.

In Washington, where the government had spent the weekend lobbying in support of the measure, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "The president would indeed be disappointed if Russia were to veto.

"The president would look at this as a missed opportunity for Russia to take an important moral stand to defend freedom, and to prevent the risk of a massive catastrophe taking place as a result of Saddam Husseins' weapons of mass destruction."

Ivanov did not use the word "veto" but a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters: "By voting against a resolution, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council exercises its veto right."

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said Monday that the U.N. Security Council will vote "Wednesday or Thursday" on a new resolution on Iraq, an aide to Palacio told CNN. (Full story)

The resolution calls on Baghdad to hand over to U.N. inspectors "all weapons, delivery, support systems and structures" prohibited under U.N. resolutions as well as "all information regarding the destruction of such items." Saddam denies that he has such weapons.

When the deadline arrives, the Security Council would decide whether Iraq has complied. If they determine it has not, council members could issue a statement to that effect, and the "serious consequences" threatened in previous resolutions -- most likely, U.S.-led military action -- would follow.

"Today it's clear that we have a real chance to answer all the questions about Iraq within months, not even years and solve all the problems diplomatically. There is also the second way of doing that, the way suggested by those who support the use of force. But we don't see any arguments justifying it," Ivanov said at the Moscow State Linguistics University, where he was receiving an honorary doctorate.

Ivanov said only "international inspectors" can say whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. He pointed out that Resolution 1441 "was unanimously accepted" by the Security Council.

He said the inspections teams include scientists from many countries, saying "they are international officials, they do not represent any particular country."

"We think that inspectors should continue their work in Iraq and no additional resolutions are needed. Russia is openly stating that if that draft of the resolution containing categorical unfulfillable demands that was submitted to the U.N. is put on the vote, Russia will vote against it."

CNN's Jill Dougherty said Moscow would rather not vote against the resolution. "Their dream would be that this would not come up for a vote, then they wouldn't have to make the tough choices. It would be a lot easier for Mr. Putin if he didn't have to make this decision," she said.

Putin Monday fielded another telephone call from an ally in the Security Council opposing a new resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. After a Sunday night call from French President Jacques Chirac, Putin spoke Monday to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

In both cases, the Kremlin said the leaders agreed that the international inspectors' reports show a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi crisis was possible.

In Baghdad, Russian Parliamentary Speaker Gennady Seleznyov Monday told reporters he had a "verbal message" from Putin for Saddam, according to Russia's Interfax news agency. Seleznyov also told reporters the opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the Iraqi crisis was "not exhausted," Interfax said.

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