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#6 - JRL 7039
Russia cautious on Bush's tough talk on Iraq

MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Russia reacted cautiously on Wednesday to U.S. President George W. Bush's tough-talking on Iraq, saying it still saw no grounds for military action but pledging to study any fresh intelligence provided by Washington.

Russia is a major player in the crisis as a permanent U.N. Security Council member with strong economic ties to Iraq and has leaned towards France and Germany in urging Washington not to undertake hasty military action against Baghdad.

In Tuesday's State of the Union speech, Bush promised to present new evidence of Iraqi stocks of banned weapons to the U.N. Security Council next week to bolster his case to attack.

"It is apparent that the U.S. administration intends soon to present concrete facts or concrete documents linked to the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters.

"We believe that such information is worthy of thorough study and for this purpose we have inspectors..."

But a ministry spokesman balanced this, saying Moscow still saw no grounds for using force against Baghdad, which Washington accuses of deceiving the world over its stocks of banned weapons.

"As we have said before, we do not see grounds for the use of military force," spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a separate statement.

"The potential for political and diplomatic regulation has not been exhausted and we think international inspectors should be given the opportunity to continue their work," he said, referring to U.N. inspectors who resumed searches for banned weapons in Iraq in November.

President Vladimir Putin adopted a markedly sharper tone on Tuesday, before Bush's speech, warning Baghdad it would take a tougher line if Iraq hampered the work of the inspection teams.

Moscow has huge oil interests in Iraq and wants to recoup $8-12 billion in Soviet-era debt from Baghdad.

Ivanov, who was due to leave for Bulgaria later in the day, said a diplomatic solution to the crisis was still being sought.

"We believe that we have to do everything that is necessary so that there is no war," he told reporters.

Yakovenko, referring directly to Bush's speech to Congress, said Moscow agreed on the need to resist "terrorism" but did not see eye to eye with Washington on the source of threats.

"We support the thesis that, to oppose terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other global security challenges, decisive joint efforts are needed from the whole of the world community," Yakovenko said.

"Of course, we do not always assess the concrete source of threats in the same way."

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