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S P E C I A L: The Standoff with Iraq

Russia maintains breakthrough reached with Iraq

Posuvalyuk met with Hussein
Posuvalyuk met with Hussein  

Latest developments:

February 3, 1998
Web posted at: 4:18 a.m. EDT (0418 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- The Kremlin insisted Tuesday its efforts to mediate a diplomatic breakthrough in the Iraq-U.N. crisis had produced major gains and soon "will bring positive results."

"The door may be open to (U.N. arms) inspections of so-called presidential sites," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky, press spokesman for Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The comments came less than 24 hours after Iraq dismissed reports that Saddam Hussein had told Russian special envoy Viktor Posuvalyuk he was ready to allow the United Nations to monitor eight new presidential sites and to meet with chief U.N. arms inspector Richard Butler.

CNN's Peter Arnett reports
icon 2 min. 12 sec VXtreme video

Iraq on Monday called the reports "totally incorrect."

In his news conference Tuesday, Yastrzhembsky lashed out at those critical of the Russian envoy's mission.

"These rumors are coming from circles who are uninterested in a diplomatic resolution of this crisis and have placed their bets on a military solution," he said.

Asked to explain the discrepancy between Moscow and Baghdad reports, Yastrzhembsky said only that Moscow "does not coordinate its statements with the statements made by Iraqi officials."

He added that Yeltsin was likely to continue his telephone diplomacy by talking to world leaders to coordinate policy on Iraq.

Kremlin: Clinton reacts 'with understanding'

On Monday, Yeltsin had been informed of the developments by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Reuters reported. The Kremlin said Yeltsin had spoken to U.S. President Bill Clinton. A news release said Clinton reacted to Russia's efforts "with understanding" but stressed his readiness to use force if diplomatic efforts failed.

Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying Hussein wanted the inspectors, who would visit eight presidential sites, to be called representatives of their countries' governments.

They should be accompanied by diplomats from the permanent members of the Security Council, Hussein was reported as saying. According to Interfax, the Iraqi leader said the grounds adjoining the sites would be excluded from inspections, but that he was ready to meet Butler in Baghdad to discuss the proposals.

Even before details of the proposals were reported, Defense Secretary William Cohen said in Washington that they were worth looking at but "not a solution."

Iraq: Russian statement is 'totally false'

But Iraqi Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Qaysi said Hussein had not discussed with a Russian envoy the monitoring of sites or a meeting with Butler.

"That statement is totally, totally false," al-Qaysi said at a news conference. "No such thing was discussed with Mr. Viktor Posuvalyuk.

"Discussion with Mr. Posuvalyuk is still going on to find a diplomatic and political solution to the crisis," al-Qaysi said.

"I am not going to provide you with even a shade of what is going on in the nature of discussions or ideas that are being discussed. Discussions are going on, and this is a good sign," he added.

Multiple peace missions launched

France, Turkey, the Arab League, Jordan and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat all launched their own peace missions and appeals to Hussein.

Envoys from Russia, France and Turkey would stress the same message, France's Foreign Ministry said: The danger would end only if Iraq gave in to U.N. demands for full access to all suspected weapons sites.

The intercession by Iraq sympathizers came as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain to make Washington's case for military force to end the standoff.

Iraq repeatedly has refused to allow U.N. inspectors into Hussein's palaces and other off-limits sites, drawing the American threats to attack.

Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon said Iraq would fax U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich an invitation to send a congressional delegation to one of Hussein's off-limits palaces.

Iraqi assembly convenes special session

Britain said it would draft a Security Council resolution demanding that Baghdad grant the weapons inspectors "full and unrestricted access" to all sites.

al-Sahaf
al-Sahaf  

The resolution could lay the foundation for military action. It would run the risk of veto by Iraq sympathizers Russia, China or France among the five permanent Security Council members.

To underscore the gravity of the current crisis, Iraq's National Assembly was called into a special session where Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf briefed representatives and told them Iraq was seeking a peaceful resolution to the impasse.

The assembly is due to reconvene Thursday once diplomatic initiatives become clear and members are asked to ratify decisions taken by the leadership.

Israel prepares for Iraqi attack

Meanwhile, Israel set up batteries of Patriot missiles in the southern Negev Desert on Monday and sought to buy millions of doses of antidotes to biological weapons from the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement that beginning Tuesday the public would be given "official information on the crisis in the Gulf by the relevant (government) bodies."

Until now, the government has not openly discussed the possible dangers of an Iraqi attack with biological weapons.

"It would create a completely different level of anxiety which we don't feel is warranted at this point," said David Bar-Illan, Netanyahu's spokesman.

Correspondent Peter Arnett and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

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