- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

MOSCOW — The United States plans to call for a vote next week on its U.N. resolution to lift sanctions on Iraq, officials said yesterday after a meeting between Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Powell told reporters that the two countries still have “outstanding issues” on the Security Council resolution, which Russia has been unwilling to approve before a full accounting of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

But U.S. officials said later that Washington feels confident that it will gather enough support to pass the measure despite the veto power held by Russia and France, both of which opposed the Iraq war.

U.N. diplomats said the United States may be moving closer to the position of France, which has proposed a temporary suspension of the sanctions.

The sticking point now is the exact duration of the suspension, they said.

However, Mr. Powell acknowledged that there were “some outstanding issues and we will be working on these issues in the spirit of partnership in trying to come to a solution.”

One of those issues is Moscow’s demand that U.N. weapons inspectors certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction before the sanctions are lifted.

Washington has until now insisted that its own inspection teams conduct the search, though a senior U.S. official traveling with Mr. Powell said on the way to Moscow that U.N. inspectors “may have a role to play” at some point.

The official also said that “a whole basket of issues related to oil” remains to be resolved.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov told reporters that his country has $4 billion worth of contracts under the U.N. oil-for-food program that have been approved but not implemented. The program expires on June 3.

“This is a very difficult resolution for us,” he said of the U.S. plan for lifting the sanctions, noting that Russia’s most pressing task is to “minimize” its negative economic and political effects.

U.S. officials said Washington was open to amendments in the text and were optimistic yesterday that they would successfully negotiate the measure in the next few days.

“We think we should be able to get the support to pass the resolution with amendments to the text,” one official said.

Mr. Powell and his hosts went out of their way yesterday to emphasize the recovery of the U.S.-Russian relationship after their sharp disagreements over the war in Iraq.

The secretary gave as an example of the “strong” relationship the Russian parliament’s ratification yesterday of the Treaty of Moscow that will reduce the two country’s nuclear arsenals by two-thirds by 2012. The accord, which replaced the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, was ratified by the Senate in March.

Russia also used the visit to impress upon the United States the “identical” nature of Monday’s suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia and two attacks in the breakaway republic of Chechnya this week, the latest of which occurred yesterday.

U.S. and Russian officials said terrorism was a major issue in yesterday’s talks. Although Mr. Powell did not publicly mention the latest attack in Chechnya, the Russian leaders emphasized it repeatedly as an example of international terrorism.

“We have again been confronted with manifestations of terrorism: the recent terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and two terrorist acts in Chechnya,” said Mr. Putin, who has been trying to present Moscow’s fight against Chechen rebels as part of the U.S.-led antiterror campaign since September 11.

Yesterday, as he did during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson on Tuesday, Mr. Putin compared Monday’s truck explosion in Chechnya that killed 59 to the car bombings in Saudi Arabia.

“The signature in both places is absolutely identical,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Robertson.

In the attack yesterday, two women blew themselves up at a religious ceremony, killing at least 30 and wounding dozens. The women apparently were trying to kill Akhmad Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya’s Moscow-backed administration.

Russian news reports said Mr. Kadyrov was among the 10,000 people attending the memorial service for three sheiks in Ilaskhan-Yurt, a village about 15 miles southeast of the capital, Grozny.

Mr. Kadyrov was not hurt, the reports said.

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