Global Policy Forum

Putin to Meet Iraq's Aziz,

Agence France Presse
July 26, 2000

President Vladimir Putin was to host Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz on Wednesday, for talks focusing closely on the easing of UN sanctions against Iraq. Aziz began his second day of a four-day tour of Moscow by meeting with the powerful Security Council secretary Sergei Ivanov before travelling to the Kremlin for a meeting with Putin at 4:00 p.m. (1200 GMT).

Setting the tone for the talks, Ivanov said Russia would continue to press the United Nations to lift sanction against Moscow's close Middle East ally.

"Russia continues to apply maximum pressure for the quickest end, and then permanent lifting of international sanctions against Iraq," Ivanov was quoted as saying by Interfax. "Right now we must reach a non-standard decision to unblock the situation."

Aziz on arrival in Moscow on Tuesday said that "the question of lifting the embargo tops the agenda at all meetings between Iraqi and Russian officials, as well with other friendly countries.

"This is my first visit to Moscow since Vladimir Putin came to power and will be focused on bilateral relations and the means to develop them," he told Iraq's state news agency INA.

Russia, as one of the five major powers in the UN Security Council, strongly supports lifting sanctions enforced against on Baghdad since Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Since 1996 Russia has bought some 663 million tonnes of petrol from Iraq, a third of Iraqi exports under a UN oil-for-food program, clinching contracts worth two billion dollars for humanitarian supplies.

Aziz's visit comes shortly after a close assistant of ultranationalist parliamentary deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced that Putin was preparing a possible visit to Iraq later this year. Alexei Mitrofanov, a senior figure in Zhirinovsky's LDPR party that has close ties with President Saddam Hussein, said Putin would discuss the idea with Aziz during his stay.

A London-based Arab newspaper reported on Tuesday that Aziz would also discuss a possible resumption of flights to Iraq despite the UN sanctions. Russian experts are examining the possibility of renewed air links "by the end of this year" as part of measures to ease the hardships of sanctions in return for an Iraqi commitment to implement Security Council resolutions, said Al-Hayat.

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