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Putin: Iraq Must Not Hamper Inspections
January 28, 2003

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow could soften its insistence on a diplomatic solution to the crisis surrounding Iraq if Baghdad hampers U.N. weapons inspectors.

Putin said that inspectors have not reported obstacles to their work in Iraq and that diplomatic measures to resolve the crisis have not been exhausted. But if Baghdad creates difficulties, Russia could move closer to the U.S. position on Iraq, he said.

``If Iraq begins to make problems for the work of the inspectors, then Russia may change its position and agree with the United States on the development of different, tougher U.N. Security Council decisions,'' Putin said during a visit to Ukraine.

Putin reiterated the Kremlin's emphasis on the need for all disputes to be resolved on the basis of international law and decision of the United Nations, where Russia is one of five countries with a veto in the Security Council.

``After the bipolar world ceased to exist, humanity has found itself in greater danger,'' he said, referring to the end of Cold War and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower. ``And how we build the building of international security in the new conditions - this is a more important question than Iraq.''

While he stressed diplomatic means must still be pursued, Putin's comment, which came in answer to a question following an address at a university in Kiev, stood out against repeated Russian statements emphasizing opposition to the use of force. On Monday, Russian officials said Iraqi cooperation with the inspectors was adequate and that they should be continued.

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