- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Russia will consider any military action by the United States and its allies against Iraq without approval by the United Nations as illegitimate and unjustified, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said yesterday.
Russia is opposed to the U.S. unilateral military intervention in Iraq threatened by Washington if it considers Baghdad to be in material breach of U.N. Security Council resolution 1441, which orders it to give up weapons of mass destruction.
Yesterday, several Republican lawmakers said on television news programs that war with Iraq is increasingly likely as the Pentagon reinforces its heavy troop presence in the Persian Gulf.
"It becomes more and more likely every day," said Sen. John McCain of Arizona on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We are seeing the United States assuming a military posture that makes it likely we'll act. We'll know in a few weeks."
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania agreed.
"At this point, we're pretty close to inevitability" to a war with Iraq, Mr. Santorum said on "Fox News Sunday."
"The lack of cooperation and the continuing to lie about their weapons of mass destruction, clearly a material breach of the United Nations, and one that this country and the world should not stand for," Mr. Santorum said.
About 65,000 troops are in the Gulf and neighboring countries, and 25,000 reinforcements will be sent in during the next weeks, bringing the total to 90,000, according to the Pentagon.
Commenting on the U.S. military buildup in the Gulf, Mr. Ivanov said such preparations could be a way of "brandishing weapons to apply psychological pressure on Baghdad or could also be real preparation for military action against Iraq."
"I imagine the American leadership, in taking its decision, will base itself on the conclusions of the international arms inspectors and on the examination of the question by the Security Council," Mr. Ivanov said of the U.N. inspectors.
The inspectors would have to deliver a clear and definitive verdict on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Mr. Ivanov said.
U.S. officials have said that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could still avoid war with an abrupt change of attitude, by acknowledging that he possesses the banned arms and allowing them to be eliminated.
Inspections are in their sixth week but have yet to disclose evidence of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The inspectors must report their findings to the U.N. Security Council by Jan. 27.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has said the findings would include the results of laboratory tests of samples taken in Iraq. He will make an interim report to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday and visit Iraq Jan. 18 to 20.
U.N. arms inspectors paid a surprise visit to the complex housing Iraq's own weapons Monitoring Directorate yesterday, trapping Baghdad's U.N. envoy and a senior official for several hours.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials stepped up rhetoric against the United States as Iraq prepared to celebrate Armed Forces Day.
"The U.S. and British aggressors will sustain a crushing defeat and great losses if they carry out their threats of attack," parliamentary Speaker Saadoun Hammadi said.
The country is expected to hold a military parade today, during which Saddam is expected to deliver the keynote speech.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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