US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Moscow to reach agreement on Iraq

US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Moscow late last night after completing a tour of the Middle East that took in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Analysts suggest that the main purpose of his visit is to restore relations between the US and Russia to their pre-war state.

Powell plans to hold several rounds of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov today. The US Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister are to meet both in an official capacity and informally, for a friendly meal. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Powell's talks in Moscow will be devoted mainly to preparations for two forthcoming meetings between the two countries' presidents. The first will take place during St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebrations and the second during the G8 summit in Evian (France) in June.

US Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow yesterday told journalists that the talks would also cover a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The State Duma is also due today to debate ratification of the Russian-US treaty on strategic arms reductions. The US congress has already ratified the treaty. The heads of the two countries' foreign affairs departments are also expected to examine the situation concerning North Korea's nuclear programme, the road map for Middle East peace, and cooperation between Russia and the US over energy, banking, high technology and space.

The itinerary for Colin Powell's visit to Russia also includes a speech to students of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and a meeting with members of the Russian-US working group on the fight against Aids. After his visit to Moscow, Powell will fly on to Bulgaria.

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