The Kremlin said in a statement after the two leaders spoke on the telephone at the White House’s request, “During a discussion on Iraq, both sides expressed the intention to step up work within the U.N. Security Council with the aim of working out a plan of action to take account of the interests of the world community.”
The Security Council met in a closed session Thursday to begin the first round of negotiations over the next steps in the Iraq crisis. A new U.S., British and Spanish-backed draft resolution designed to authorize the use of force against Iraq was submitted to Security Council members earlier this week.
But Putin said Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, could not support any resolution that would allow for “hostilities to be launched,” according to a Reuters report.
Russia has signed on to an alternative plan, backed by France and Germany, that would give U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq an additional four months to assess whether Baghdad has complied with orders to eliminate any weapons of mass destruction.
No vote is expected on a new Security Council resolution for at least two weeks.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix delivered a 17-page report to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday to update the state of inspections in Iraq and the level of cooperation from Baghdad.
The report, which Blix was due to hand in to the Security Council on March 1, was not immediately made public although Blix has indicated to reporters that while Iraqi cooperation is improving, it does not represent a “breakthrough.”
Last Friday, Blix ordered Baghdad to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles by March 1 after inspectors found some of the rockets had the ability to travel farther than the 93-mile maximum range set by the U.N. after the 1991 Gulf War.
In an interview with CBS’s Dan Rather this week, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein insisted that he had “no missiles outside the specification of the United Nations.”
But unnamed Iraqi officials have indicated to news services that Iraq will respond to the U.N. order to destroy the missiles by the Saturday deadline.
President Bush told reporters in the Oval Office Thursday that any Iraqi plan to destroy the banned missiles was part of a “campaign of deception” by Baghdad.
“See, he’ll say ‘I’m not going to destroy the rockets’ and then he’ll have a change of mind this weekend and destroy the rockets and say, ‘I’ve disarmed,”‘ the president said.
“The rockets are just the tip of the iceberg. The only question at hand is total, complete disarmament, which he is refusing to do,” Mr. Bush added.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s ruling party further delayed a parliament vote on whether to formally allow more than 60,000 U.S. troops to use the country as a base to launch attacks in a potential U.S.-led war against Iraq.
U.S. Naval warships carrying tanks and armor have been stalled off Turkey’s coast for more than a week. If Turkey’s parliament decides to reject the U.S. offer of billions in economic aid in exchange for the use of its bases, the ships will travel to the Persian Gulf.