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Russia Reportedly Angry With Iraq Over Oil Contract Snub - 2002-12-13


Russian government sources say that Baghdad's cancellation of a huge oil contract has removed one of Moscow's main reasons for opposing military action against Iraq.

Moscow's RIA-Novosti news agency quotes one official as saying any nation's foreign policy is guided by its own interests -- and that Russia's economic interests outweigh any desire to defend Saddam Hussein.

Russia, along with France, has been one of Iraq's strongest defenders on the United Nations Security Council. Both Russian and French influence were instrumental in crafting the U-N resolution that allows military action against Iraq only after arms inspectors conduct more searches for weapons of mass destruction and then report back to the Security Council.

Thursday, Iraq's oil ministry informed three Russian oil companies it is canceling a deal for them to develop the large West Qurna oil field.

Iraq's Oil Minister Amer Rasheed said today (Friday) that the lead company, Russian oil giant Lukoil, has failed to meet its commitments under the contract.

Meanwhile, in Iraq today, U-N weapons inspectors were delayed two hours as they tried to search a disease control center. The inspectors had to use a hotline to reach Iraqi authorities for the first time since inspections resumed last month.

Both U-N and Iraqi officials say the delay happened because the center was a newly-declared site and officials needed to clarify procedures for marking some equipment that could have both peaceful and military uses.

U-N weapons inspectors were conducting searches today for the first time on a Friday -- the Muslim holy day of rest.

In Vienna, the head of the U-N nuclear agency says most of Iraq's declaration on nuclear weapons is old material the agency already had. Speaking to reporters today (Friday), Mohamed ElBaradei says only 300 out of 24-hundred pages appear to be new.

Thursday, U-S officials also said Iraq's lengthy weapons declaration is filled with old information, and it fails to explain what happened to chemical and biological agents that were unaccounted for when U-N inspectors left Iraq four years ago.

The Bush administration says Iraq is lying when it says it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. President Bush has threatened military action, if Iraq is found to have banned weapons.

A Security Council resolution refers to unspecified "serious consequences" if Iraq is found to possess the weapons.

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