- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

HONG KONG, Feb. 28 (UPI) — Russia is prepared to veto a U.S.-British resolution in the U.N. Security Council permitting a strike on Iraq if doing so would keep global stability and peace, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday in Beijing.

"Russia has the right to a veto in the U.N. Security Council and will use it if it is necessary in the interests of international stability," Ivanov told a news conference.

Ivanov's statement followed a joint communiqu Thursday of with China's foreign minister that said a war with Iraq "can and should be avoided" and called for weapons inspectors in Iraq to be given more time to do their job.

Washington and London are looking for votes to back a Security Council resolution allowing a war on Iraq. But France and Russia, both with veto power as permanent council members, have not backed the resolution and have called for more time for weapons inspectors. Germany has also not backed the resolution.

"Of course, if you use the veto power you should fully understand the responsibilities of it before using it. It can only be used for international peace and stability," said Ivanov. "At the same time Russia will not be in favor of any new resolution which allows the use of military force directly or indirectly to solve the Iraqi issue."

China's official news agency quoted the statement by the foreign ministers of the two countries saying, "Both sides reiterate their determination to render their full efforts for promoting a political solution to the Iraqi issue."

The communiqu said the international community was pressing for measures to avoid war and it said, "such aspiration should be respected."

The joint statement also said both countries would push for dialogue between the United States and North Korea to solve their nuclear issue.

"Both China and Russia are ready to actively push for a political resolution of the nuclear issue of the DPRK (North Korea) in both bilateral and multilateral arena," said Xinhua.

Ivanov's meetings in Beijing follows a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called on China to use its diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and outlined Washington's stand on Iraq.

Ivanov met with China's President Jiang Zemin who expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the talks with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. Jiang reiterated that Iraq should cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors and that "the Iraq issue should be resolved politically in which the United Nations should play an essential role."

On the outside China and Russia hold the same position on Iraq, having stated prior to their meetings in Beijing that they want more dialogue and time for weapons inspectors. Observers said China could still change its position on Iraq but Moscow appears determined to oppose war by promoting its own peace proposals. Both countries appear to be united on the North Korea issue, pushing for talks to calm rising tensions.

On Thursday, U.S. officials said North Korea has begun operating a controversial nuclear reactor escalating the nuclear situation. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it cannot confirm the U.S. reports and is opposed to North Korea restarting nuclear activities without its supervision.

Jiang called for a peaceful resolution through direct dialogue between the United States and North Korea and said that "peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula should be safeguarded and the peninsula should be nuclear-free," according to Xinhua.

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