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Iraq: Russia, China Agree That War 'Can And Should Be Avoided'

Beijing, 27 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- China and Russia said today that a war in Iraq "can and should be avoided." The joint statement reported by the Chinese news agency Xinhua came during Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's visit in Beijing.

China and Russia, two of five veto-holding members of the UN Security Council, said UN inspectors in Iraq should be given more time to look for weapons of mass destruction.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq has increased cooperation but there is still no evidence Saddam Hussein has decided to disarm.

U.S. President George W. Bush said overnight in Washington that an Iraq free of Saddam would be a "dramatic and inspiring example to the Middle East." Bush said those to benefit the most if Saddam is ousted would be the Iraqi people. "The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war and misery, and torture," he said.

In London, 199 of the 659 members of the British Parliament voted against a government motion asking parliament for backing for UN efforts to disarm Iraq. Most votes against military action came from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also expressed opposition to a new UN resolution being pushed by the United States, Britain, and Spain.