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Ivanov: Russia may use veto

Ivanov: Russia would not support any decision that would directly or indirectly lead to a war

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Tuesday that Moscow would not support any measure leading to a war on Iraq and might be prepared to use its veto in the U.N. Security Council.

"Russia has this right and if the situation so demands, Russia will of course use its right of veto -- as an extreme measure -- to avoid the worst development of the situation," Ivanov said, according to a translated version of a BBC World Service interview in London.

"Russia would not support any decision that would directly or indirectly lead to a war with Iraq," he added.

Ivanov said Moscow, which like China, France and Germany opposes the hawkish stance by Washington and London against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, would not abstain in any future U.N. Security Council vote on Iraq.

"To abstain is a position that could not take place. Russia is not indifferent to the future of Iraq," he said. "Russia will not abstain. It will take a particular position."

Ivanov insisted that unanimity in the Security Council, rather than talk of veto-wielding, was the best way to pressure Saddam into disarming.

"Only unanimity will provide success in the solution of the Iraqi problem," he said. "In the past Iraq used the differences in the Security Council and has managed to avoid solutions."

Ivanov called for concrete time-limits to be set by U.N. inspectors -- led by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei -- to complete their work.

"We insist that Blix and ElBaradei on March 7 give a clear plan for work ... and say how long it will take them," he said. "All we have asked Iraq to do so far, Iraq has carried out. Therefore, the inspectors should set out a concrete plan for their activity."

Ivanov said it would be a "serious mistake with serious consequences" if the United States went to war against Iraq without a second resolution, but declined to say what action if any Russia would take in response.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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