Moscow, 18 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov has announced that Russia and Iraq have worked out a plan to avoid the use of force in the standoff between Baghdad and the United Nations. Primakov spoke on Russia's ORT television after talks in Moscow with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. Aziz also met Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Primakov told reporters that Yeltsin sent a message several days ago to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, which contained a plan for a political solution to the crisis. Primakov said Aziz today arrived in Russia with a positive reply. He added that a specific program to implement the plan was worked out at today's meetings. No other details were disclosed.
The Russian foreign minister said Yeltsin had ordered him to try to meet the foreign ministers of Britain and France as well as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Primakov is scheduled to leave for a tour of Latin America tomorrow, but he said negotiations were under way to try to arrange a possible meeting.
In Washington, meanwhile, White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger announced that President Bill Clinton has ordered additional U.S. fighter jets to the Persian Gulf to strengthen American forces in the region. There are currently some 120 U.S. Air Force jets based in the region, in addition to 75 fighters on two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf.
The U.S. Defense Department said it flew a high-altitude surveillance mission in a U-2 plane over Iraq today without incident. The flight was the second U-2 mission flown by the United States on behalf of international weapons inspections since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein threatened to expel U.S. inspectors.
Iraq condemned the flight, saying it served the aggressive purposes of the U.S.