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Financial Times (UK)
May 16, 2003
Optimism on Russian postwar accord with US
By Andrew Jack and Stefan Wagstyl

Russian President Vladimir Putin's top foreign policy adviser yesterday expressed optimism that Moscow and Washington could resolve their differences over a post-war settlement in Iraq by early next month.

As talks continue on a United Nations resolution setting the framework for Iraqi reconstruction, Sergei Prikhodko said in a rare interview there was "a basis for joint work", following a bridge-building visit to Moscow by Colin Powell, US secretary of state.

In an apparent gesture toward Russia's demands, Mr Powell said yesterday that the US would consider a suspension rather than the full lifting of UN sanctions it has pursued up till now.

Speaking in Bulgaria on the next leg of his tour of the Middle East and Europe, Mr Powell said: "We think it is much cleaner to lift the sanctions but as part of the discussion and negotiation process we will look at the idea of initially suspending sanctions."

Mr Powell's trip is one of the most high-profile efforts yet by the US administration to re-establish ties with Moscow after the diplomatic fall-out over Iraq, and met a positive response.

Mr Prikhodko said: "Our partnership with the US is not a hostage of the Iraq crisis. There are far too many common values and common tasks both short term and long term...our co-operation never stopped, even during the Iraq crisis." He echoed Mr Putin's concerns that there might not be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but indicated Russia would not pursue the issue. "We make as many mistakes as anybody else. There's no gloating on our part."

Mr Prikhodko said he would "like to be optimistic" about talks at the UN with the US and other states over lifting of sanctions. He said in principle agreement should be reached by early June, when the existing UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq expires.

Such timing would coincide with the bilateral summit scheduled on June 1 between Mr Putin and George W. Bush, the US president, at the conclusion of St Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebrations.

Mr Prikhodko said detailed talks between experts were still taking place ahead of a new Security Council resolution, but that the main topics requiring clarification included the extent of UN involvement in Iraq and the precise mandate of the UN special representative.

In a reference to Russia's substantial commercial interests in Iraq, he said any contracts signed between oil companies and the former government of Saddam Hussein should be respected so long as they complied with the UN sanctions regime.

However, in an indication that this would not prove a stumbling block for Russia in its negotiations over a new UN text, he said: "It is not connected to the resolution. We are pragmatic, but not to this extent."

He said Russia had taken a "position of principle" over Iraq, and that along with France and Germany it did not object to the disarmament of Baghdad, but to the method used by the US.

He expressed frustration that the US had not yet abolished the Jackson Vannick trade curbs on Russian goods, long after original cold war demands for free emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union had been met.

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