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Russia: Iraq Urged To Stop Hindering U.S. Inspectors

Beijing/Moscow; 10 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia again called on Iraq today to stop hindering Americans carrying out United Nations-mandated weapons inspections. A foreign ministry statement issued in Moscow said Iraq's restrictions contravene Security Council disarmament resolutions in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

However, the statement said Russia will firmly oppose attempts to use growing tensions between Baghdad and the world community to justify military action against Iraq. Separately in Beijing today, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers urged Iraq to fully comply with UN resolutions and asked all other nations to show restraint.

Britain, Germany and France today also all warned Iraq to stop blocking U.S. weapons inspectors. British defense secretary George Robertson said Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will not be allowed to flout world opinion and said his weapons program must be confronted.

France also urged Iraq to avoid all hostile action at American U-2 spy flights over Iraq in support of the UN mission.

Vice President Al Gore says U.S. spy planes will continue surveillance flights over Iraq to support United Nations' weapons inspectors, regardless of Iraqi complaints or threats.

Gore told reporters at the White House today that Iraq had no right to challenge the reconnaisance flights. The plane belongs to the U.S. and the pilot is American, Gore says, but the mission is part of a United Nations resolution.

Iraqi had said it did not recognize the flights as part of the UN program. Iraq says it will shoot down such planes. Gore, however, said it is not for Iraq to decide what forces make up the UN inspection effort.

Speaking at the same news conference, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said a spy plane mission over Iraq today was completed without direct threats from Iraqi forces.

Iraq's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz is to present his country's case to UN officials tonight.