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Russia Provides Diplomatic Aid In U.N. Weapon Inspection Crisis

By Carol J. Williams
and John-Thor Dahlburg
Los Angeles Times
MOSCOW

Having pulled the United States and Iraq back from the brink of another armed confrontation, Russia's leadership has scored its first major diplomatic victory of the post-Cold War era and demonstrated that it takes more than one superpower to keep the world at peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M. Primakov's success in persuading Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to lift his provocative ouster of U.N. weapons inspectors also testifies to Moscow's resurgent clout in parts of the Arab world and confirms the Kremlin is as defensive of its interests abroad as are Western leaders.

Most significantly, say officials and analysts, is that Russia's resolution of the tense standoff between Baghdad and the international community enhances the solidarity and authority of the U.N. Security Council by showing that its often-squabbling permanent members can also be allies.

It was the intervention of Russia, which has long enjoyed symbiotic relations with Iraq, that compelled Baghdad to allow unhindered access to its weapons facilities by a U.N. Special Commission seeking to assess Baghdad's compliance with Security Council resolutions ordering elimination of its weapons.

Russian officials insist no promises or concessions were made to Iraq. But Primakov did vow to press for accelerated, more efficient inspections in hopes that a positive judgment on compliance will be the outcome, opening the way for easing harsh economic sanctions imposed to punish Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Primakov set off for South America shortly after the hastily convened meeting in Geneva where he won support for Russia's strategy from fellow top diplomats from the other Security Council permanent members - the United States, Britain, France and China. But his deputies stood ready to interpret the breakthrough and take the bows.