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Bush works on Russia
- Putin refuses to toe US line

Washington, Sept. 20 (Reuters): US President George W. Bush pressed Russia today to drop objections to a tough, new UN Security Council resolution requiring Iraq disarm or face the prospect of war.

Bush met Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov and defence minister Sergei Ivanov in the Oval Office after telephoning Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was on a working holiday at a Black Sea resort.

Putin gave no public sign of buckling to US pressure on the need for a new resolution against Iraq, telling Bush it is “vital to concentrate on the fastest possible deployment of UN inspection and monitoring missions” to Iraq, a Kremlin statement said.

Iraq’s offer this week to readmit UN arms inspectors after a four-year hiatus, made under international pressure, divided the Security Council and slowed Bush’s drive for a new mandate for unfettered inspections backed by force.

The Russian foreign minister told reporters on the White House driveway after the meeting that both Russia and the United States want Iraq to comply fully with all existing UN resolutions and that weapons inspectors return.

“Russia and the United States are firmly interested in making the work of inspectors in Iraq effective and to ensure that this work gives a clear answer whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not, and we agreed to pursue the exchange of views on how to make the work of the inspectors more effective,” Ivanov said.

Bush is in no mood to wait out a lengthy process to get UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq. Chief UN inspector Hans Blix told a closed UN Security Council meeting yesterday that he expected to send an advance party of disarmament experts to Baghdad on October 15.

“This is, again, why the President is focused on disarmament. That remains the key, not the process of inspectors,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer when asked about the Blix timetable.

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