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Iraq: Russia, France Call For UN Security Council Meeting

Moscow, 16 December 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russia and France today called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to examine fresh reports that Baghdad is not cooperating with UN weapons inspectors. The move follows a decision by the UN today to withdraw all its weapons inspectors from Iraq.

Richard Butler, the chief UN weapons inspector, told the Security Council yesterday that Baghdad has broken a promise made last month to fully cooperate with UN inspectors. That promise narrowly averted US-led air strikes.

U.S. and British officials say they're taking Butler's report seriously and have warned that military strikes could follow. The other members of the Security Council -- France, Russia and China -- have been more lenient.

Itar-Tass quotes Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as saying that Butler overstepped his authority when he filed the latest report. French government spokesman Daniel Vaillant says Paris hopes military strikes against Iraq can be avoided. But he said officials in Paris realize it might not be possible this time.