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New Russian Foreign Minister Promises Continuity --> Moscow, 17 March 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's new foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, today said Russia will continue to push for greater international involvement in Iraq and the Middle East.

Speaking in Moscow, Russia's former UN ambassador outlined his main policies to journalists. He said "there will be no major surprises" because Russia will not change its "strategic direction."

Lavrov reiterated Russia's call for a greater UN role in Iraq, saying: "The occupation authorities [in Iraq] prefer to search for weapons [of mass destruction] by themselves. I repeat, we are convinced that UN inspectors could assist them -- in any form. The engagement of the UN in this work in order to clarify this whole story about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is necessary. This issue will not be closed without the UN."

He also called on Israel to implement the international "road map" peace plan, and urged increased cooperation between Iran and the UN's nuclear watchdog agency: "As you know, Iran has signed the additional protocol to the safeguards agreement and is already implementing its provisions, it has voluntarily decided to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. And we are calling on Tehran to continue its full, active and transparent cooperation with the IAEA in resolving all outstanding questions that the IAEA might still have."