International Inspectors in Iraq Must Have as Much Time as Possible, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Says

International inspectors in Iraq must have as much time as is needed to eliminate present-day concerns and questions as regards mass-destruction weapons and their delivery vehicles, as well as those specific concerns and questions that may arise in the future. This was disclosed in a RIA-NOVOSTI interview by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov.

In his words, January 27 should not be perceived as the final deadline, after which any possible subsequent search for settling the situation around Iraq would become impossible.

UNMOVIC (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) inspectors are to submit a report dealing with their activities in Iraq to the UN Security Council January 27.

According to Mr Saltanov, Baghdad, which is inclined to cooperate with UNMOVIC inspector groups, is ready to do everything possible in order to ensure their normal activity.

Mr Saltanov also emphasized the need for using all resources in order to prevent a possible war. The UN and its Security Council have a key role to play in the search for political means of rectifying the current situation, Mr Saltanov added.

Mr Saltanov negotiated with Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan and that country's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in Baghdad January 16. We focused on the situation around Iraq, as well as on ways for attaining a peaceful political solution to the current crisis and fulfilling the UNSC's resolution No. 1441, Mr Saltanov went on to say.

The Russian side emphasized the importance of Iraq's continued full-scale cooperation with international inspectors, so that they could accomplish their objective, assessing Iraqi weapons programs in an unbiased manner, Saltanov stressed.

Some aspects of the forthcoming arrival of UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and IAEA Director-General Dr. Mohamed El Baradei to Iraq were examined in this context.

We believe that inspectors would have more opportunities to objectively assess the situation and to submit the relevant report to the UNSC January 27 in case of more active cooperation between Iraq and UN experts, Mr Saltanov noted.

Most international community members are now united by a striving to solve the Iraqi problem by political-diplomatic means. Regional countries, Russia and Europe understand only too well that any possible war would spell deleterious consequences for the Middle East, as well as the entire international situation and global stability, Mr Saltanov went on to say.

Talking to reporters January 16, Dr. El Baradei noted that the IAEA intended to ask the UNSC to extend the mandate of UNMOVIC inspectors on Iraqi territory. In his words, UNMOVIC inspectors will submit a report on their Iraqi activity to the UNSC January 27, subsequently asking the UNSC to extend their mandate for another few months. According to Dr. El Baradei, their eight-week stay in Iraq is an extremely short time period.