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Russia: Putin Tells Bush Of Moscow's Opposition To Iraq Attack

Moscow, 7 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin, in a telephone conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush overnight, reiterated Russia's "consistent position in favor of a peaceful solution" to disarm Iraq. Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, arriving in New York for a key Security Council meeting today, also repeated China's opposition to military action against Iraq. Tang, speaking to Chinese reporters, said that "opposition to war is prevailing."

The Security Council meets later today to hear a key report from UN weapons inspectors on Iraqi cooperation in disarming its weapons of mass destruction. Security Council members remain divided over whether to continue with inspections or authorize military action against Iraq.

China yesterday said it supported a joint statement from France, Germany, and Russia not to allow passage of a resolution proposed by the U.S., Britain, and Spain which paves the way for military action.

China, France, and Russia all hold veto power in the council. Neither has said they would use it, although France and Russia have suggested they may do so.

The United States and Britain are expected next week to ask for a vote on the new resolution. Bush said yesterday the U.S. will call for a council vote regardless of prospects of success. He said he is confident that if it comes to military action, the U.S. will have the support of many nations.

"I think you'll see, when it's all said and done, if we have to use force [to disarm Iraq], a lot of nations will be with us."

The U.S. and Britain are considering amending the wording of the proposed resolution. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed changes in the text of a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq with foreign ministers of major European countries late yesterday.

Powell met British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.