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Russia: Four Security Council Members To Consider Iraq Plan

Geneva, 19 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - The foreign ministers of four leading members of the U.N. Security Council are set to meet early tomorrow morning in Geneva to consider a Russian plan for ending the three-week old impasse with Iraq. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov has already arrived in Geneva and is expected to be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the foreign ministers of France and Britain.

Primakov says he has a plan for ending the crisis over Iraq's decision to bar Americans from U.N. weapons inspection teams.

No details were available on Primakov's plan or where the talks will take place. The French foreign ministry said today discussions will center on improving the U.N. oil-for-food program with Iraq and on what Baghdad must do to end the sanctions.

Earlier today, Primakov said that he expects "a lot" from the meeting, which follows two days of discussion with Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz in Moscow.

State Department spokesman James Rubin, who is traveling with Albright, said the meeting didn't necessarily mean a settlement was in the offing. Earlier today, Albright said she would very much like to settle the dispute through diplomatic means.

Yesterday, the State Department said it welcomes the efforts of any nation to resolve the crisis with Iraq over international inspections of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Spokesman Lee McClenny said the U.S. welcomes the participation of anyone who "has better contacts and better communications with the Iraqi government than the U.S. has."

The spokesman said the U.S. is certain that the Russian government will act in a responsible manner.

White House spokesman Michael McCurry said that, while the U.S. has been in frequent contact with Russia since the crisis began, Washington had no specific advance knowledge of Primakov's announcement of the plan yesterday.

McCurry said it is imperative for Russia to make clear to Saddam that he must be in compliance with U.N. resolutions on weapons inspections. Also yesterday, the U.S. Defense Department said it may deploy up to 45 additional combat aircraft to strengthen U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

President Bill Clinton announced the deployment yesterday as the standoff with the United Nations continues.

Defense spokesman Kenneth Bacon told reporters six jet fighters equipped with radar-evading technology and six long-range bombers capable of launching cruise missiles are being sent to the region.

Bacon says Clinton also gave the commander of U.S. forces for the Gulf region the authority to send in an air expeditionary force of 30 combat aircraft if the commander decides it is necessary.