Moscow, 13 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov says the time has come for a visit to Baghdad by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in the search for a peaceful settlement to the Iraq crisis. Speaking to reporters after meeting visiting U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, Primakov said Russia believes one cannot talk about "failed diplomatic efforts or reach a verdict" before Annan goes to Baghdad himself.
Cohen said the U.S. agreed there should be a diplomatic solution but he said that anything "less than full compliance by Iraq would not be satisfactory." Cohen later left Moscow for Washington.
Russia has been actively mediating the crisis over Iraq's refusal to allow U.N. arms inspectors free access to suspected weapons sites. The United States has threatened military strikes if Baghdad does not back down.
Representatives of the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members are to meet with Annan later today in New York, as the U.N. Secretary-General considers whether to travel to Baghdad to try to find a political solution to the dispute.