Russia's Defence Minister: Any Initiative Concerning Iraq Must Be Based on Inspectors' Opinion

Any plan to resolve the Iraqi conflict "must be based on the opinion of international inspectors, whom we ourselves unanimously sent, trained, equipped and who enjoy our full trust," Russia's Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said in Rome on Monday.

When answering western journalists' question on his attitude to the latest France-Germany initiative concerning Iraq, Ivanov stressed that he was still unaware of its contents but looked upon it as any other plan. "If international inspectors support this initiative, it will be possible to start fulfilling it," Russia's Defence Minister stated. "I repeat that we have only international inspectors to trust. All subsequent actions must be developed by the UN Security Council and only on the basis of UN resolutions, preferably by peaceful means." Russia's Defence Minister recalled that there were two standpoints regarding further actions in Iraq. "Some people say that international inspectors themselves must certainly find evidence of Iraq having or not having weapons of mass destruction," the Minister explained. "Others stress that inspectors are not detectives, and the evidence must be provided by the Iraqi side itself." Sergei Ivanov believes both standpoints to be compatible. "If international inspectors need more time and strength to work, UN members must support them and provide them with all they need. If international inspectors believe that Saddam Hussein has not done his job, he must do it," the Russian Minister stressed.