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Three possibly significant news items: >From RFE/RL today 1. MOSCOW SAYS NOT SO FAST ON LIFTING SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ ... Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on 17 April that Russia does not support a U.S. proposal that the UN Security Council quickly lift its economic sanctions against Iraq, RTR reported. This issue cannot be solved automatically without passing through the Security Council, which still must determine whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not, Ivanov said. He noted that this would likely entail the return of international weapons inspectors to that country. Duma Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Rogozin said that Moscow would probably drop its objections to the lifting of sanctions in exchange for U.S. concessions on the issue of Iraqi debts to Russia. Speaking on ORT on 17 April, Rogozin said the United States should agree to allow Russian companies to participate in the reconstruction of the postwar Iraqi economy. ============== 2. POLITICIANS CONSIDER U.S.-RUSSIAN RELATIONS AFTER THE FALL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN During the same ORT broadcast, Rogozin said that the most important thing for Russia is not relations with Iraq but that the United States accept responsibility, including moral responsibility, for the situation there. For Russia, the most important thing is to build relations with the United States on the foundation of "Russia's own interests" and to strengthen its military and its economy, Rogozin said. "If Russia had a lot more missiles and a population of 500 million, the United States would speak to us in a different language," he said. Former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Shokhin said that relations with the United States are important to Russia primarily because of the U.S. role in determining world oil prices, upon which the Russian economy is heavily dependent. In comparison with Russia's dependence on oil-export revenues, the issues of Iraqi debts or the role of Russian companies in postwar Iraqi reconstruction are insignificant, Shokhin said. Dmitrii Simes, president of the conservative, Washington-based Nixon Center, said that no U.S. politician would say publicly that Russia should be punished for its position on Iraq. =============================== And re: Former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksandr Shokhin's pointed remark on needing "a population of 500 million" before Russia would be taken seriously, this April 17 news item is important to remember: 3. PUTIN LAUDS PROGRESS ON CREATION OF UNIFIED ECONOMIC ZONE. President Vladimir Putin said in Moscow on 16 April that he is pleased with the progress made to date on a draft agreement to create a "unified economic zone" encompassing Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Russia . During a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko, who heads the working group on the unification of trade and tariff legislation, Putin said that, "despite a number of setbacks," the group's work is moving forward and the four countries should be able to enter the World Trade Organization as "a single economic space." The other members of the working group -- Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Karim Maksimov, and Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakou -- also attended the meeting with Putin. Analysts believe that the proposal to combine the four countries -- with a total population of 219 million people -- is the most ambitious Kremlin initiative since the collapse of the Soviet Union and could lead to the creation of a new regional entity. cheers, pg _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk