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Russia Criticizes Iraq’s Decision

November 4, 1997

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia on Tuesday reaffirmed it opposition to Iraq’s plan to expel U.S. weapons inspectors and urged Baghdad to cooperate fully with the United Nations disarmament team.

``Russia regards such an approach as inadequate and unacceptable,″ government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov said of Iraq’s position, according to the Interfax news agency.

The spokesman noted that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and other top officials had made Russia’s position clear in the latest crisis.

Iraq turned back U.N. weapons inspectors for a second day Tuesday, saying it would not grant access to any teams that included Americans.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Hassan Fahmi Jumah, said his country was willing to work with the U.N. inspectors if the Americans left.

``Iraq is actively and constructively cooperating with the U.N.,″ he was quoted as saying by Interfax. ``However, the main problem is the anti-Iraqi policy pursued by the U.S., which is trying to turn the U.N. into a means of protecting its own interests.″

Russia has supported the tough sanctions in place against Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. However, Moscow continues to maintain contacts with Saddam Hussein’s government and sees itself as a potential mediator whenever tensions rise between the United States and Iraq.

In addition, Russian oil companies have already signed contracts to help redevelop Iraq’s oil industry, though Moscow says they will not be allowed to work in Iraq until the sanctions are lifted.

The sanctions require Iraq to destroy all its long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

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