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After France, Russia melts on sanctions

Moscow, April 24 (Reuters): Russia today backed temporary suspension of 13-year-old sanctions against Iraq to ease the plight of its citizens, but said they could only be scrapped on the basis of existing UN resolutions.

Foreign minister Igor Ivanov’s statement underscored changes in the positions of Russia and France on post-war reconstruction as both had initially opposed lifting sanctions without an agreement to send UN arms inspectors back to Iraq.

France now calls for suspension of the sanctions, and said Paris was ready to study a role for NATO in peacekeeping in Iraq now that a US-led force had toppled President Saddam Hussein. But fundamental differences remained with Washington, which wants immediate, unconditional rescinding of the sanctions.

Ivanov said most countries wanted temporary measures put in place immediately to help Iraqis cope with the aftermath of war. “Among the measures being examined is temporary suspension of sanctions regarding those goods which could be used to resolve humanitarian problems in Iraq,” he said.

“The vast majority of countries agree with this approach. It is therefore important now to come up with an appropriate decision. But I repeat that we are talking about a partial, temporary suspension of these sanctions.”

Scrapping the sanctions, imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, “must be resolved separately on the basis of UN resolutions on this issue”.

A senior US diplomat described Ivanov’s comments as “a positive move”. “We believe there is a case, with the change of conditions, for proceeding directly to lifting sanctions rather than just suspension,” he said.

Saddam aides

American forces netted four more senior members of Saddam Hussein’s old guard. Among the latest Saddam aides arrested was Muzahim Sa’b Hassan al-Tikriti, commander of Iraq’s air defences. At number 10 on the list of 55 most wanted fugitives, he is the highest ranking catch yet.

General Zuhayr Talib Abd al Sattar al Naqib, Saddam’s chief of military intelligence, surrendered in Baghdad and US special forces captured Salim Sa’id Khalaf Al-Jumayli, the former head of Iraqi intelligence’s American desk. Former Iraqi trade minister, Muhammad al-Salih, No. 48 on the list, is also in custody.

US administrator retired US general Jay Garner today said formation of a new Iraqi government will start next week. Speaking after talks with some of the country’s prospective new leaders, Garner told a Baghdad news conference: “I think you’ll begin to see the governmental process start by the next week. It will have Iraqi faces on it.”

Meanwhile, the US military said it was questioning some of its soldiers over the alleged theft of part of a $650 million haul in Baghdad a week ago.

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