Iraq ready to recognize Kuwait, Russia indicates

November 09, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- After a month of diplomatic pressure on Iraq, Russia indicated that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is ready to accept a U.N. demand to give formal and legal recognition to Kuwait.

Word of the possible breakthrough came after a two-hour meeting here, arranged at Iraq's request, between Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei D. Kozyrev.

If confirmed by Iraq, the step could lead to a lifting of U.N. trade sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and would ease the tensions caused by sudden Iraqi troop movements toward Kuwait last month.

A cautiously worded statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said Mr. Aziz came here with a letter from Mr. Hussein to Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin "on Iraq's recognition of Kuwait's sovereignty and borders under U.N. Security Council Resolution 833."

That resolution was adopted after Mr. Kozyrev's premature announcement Oct. 13 that Mr. Hussein would drop Iraq's claims to Kuwaiti territory. The Security Council demanded that Mr. Hussein's decision be ratified into law by his Parliament, and the Iraqis balked.

After meeting yesterday with Mr. Aziz, Mr. Kozyrev rushed to the Kremlin to brief Mr. Yeltsin, who then ordered him to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad today "to take part in completing the appropriate constitutional procedures" demanded by the Security Council, the Foreign Ministry said. It added that Mr. Kozyrev was going at Iraq's invitation for a three-day visit.

There was some skepticism in Russia's foreign policy Establishment that a deal is done.

"There is no need for Kozyrev to urgently fly to Iraq unless there are reservations and conditions put forth by Iraq," said Vyacheslav A. Nikonov, chairman of the Russian Parliament's international security subcommittee.

And even if Iraq finally recognizes Kuwait, the United States has threatened to veto any easing of sanctions unless Mr. Hussein's regime meets U.N. restrictions on its weaponry and keeps its troops away from the border.

"Border recognition would meet only one of a number of requirements with which Iraq has not complied," State Department spokesman David Johnson said yesterday. "It would not itself establish Iraq's peaceful intentions."

The United States and Russia often are at odds over Mr. Hussein, with Washington taking a hard line and Moscow urging an end to sanctions. Russia's bullish diplomacy is more than an attempt to recover superpower influence in the Persian Gulf; Iraq owes Moscow $7 billion, mostly weapons bought before the 1990 gulf war.

"Our chances to get these dollars back will arise only when Iraq can sell oil, which means lifting the sanctions," Mr. Kozyrev said in a Russian television interview aired yesterday.

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