Russia sees need for broadened Iraq peacekeeping force after June 30

'After civil authority in Iraq is handed over to Iraqis, an act now scheduled for June 30, security there may be assured by the presence of a multinational force. We are referring to the forces of countries already on the ground and forces from other countries, including Arab countries,' Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has declared, according to the ministry's press service on Monday.

He also said Russian diplomats were determined to make direct contact with those responsible for the kidnapping of two Russians in Iraq. Lavrov noted the widespread support of the efforts of Russian diplomats by 'many social and religious leaders in Iraq, calling on the kidnappers to free the Russians and not bring discredit to the Iraqi nation.' Lavrov also said he considers the videotape shown Sunday on Qatar television station Al-Dzhazir to be authentic. He also said he is convinced that the two Russians-Aleksandr Gordiyenko and Andrey Meshcheryakov, both employed by Interenergoservis--are alive.

Meanwhile, 120 members of Interenergoservis' staff were to return to Moscow Monday aboard a plane supplied by Russia's Emergencies Ministry. The plane also is to bring home the body of Aleksey Konorev, an employee of Interenergoservis, who was killed in the kidnapping. Approximately 200 other employees of the company have chosen to stay in Iraq, despite the warnings of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

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