MOSCOW - U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday the United States wanted Russia's cooperation in working out a U.N resolution on Iraq. "She made it clear that we want to work closely with the Russians on the text of the Security Council resolution which we will soon be drafting and sharing with our Russian friends," a U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters.
The arrangements for the June 30 handover were the subject of intense discussions on Friday in both New York and Washington involving foreign ministers of leading industrialised states and diplomats at the United Nations. Russia made it plain on the eve of the talks with Rice that it was willing to work with Washington on a U.N. Security Council resolution to underpin the handover, but said it wanted a clear outline of post-occupation arrangements.
With officials disclosing only the barest of details, Tass said Rice turned over to the Kremlin leader a message from U.S. President George W. Bush. A Kremlin statement said talks focused on bilateral cooperation and on "key international issues, including the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East". Contrary to common practice, Russian television showed no pictures of the Kremlin meeting.
Rice was due later to meet members of Russia's Security Council, headed by former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. She travels on to Berlin on Sunday. Her mission focuses on persuading Russia, a permanent Security Council member with veto power, to back a new resolution to enable a multinational force to maintain security as long as possible.
Rice said in a newspaper interview on Friday that Washington wanted "to find out Russians' opinion on what this resolution should contain". Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, Russia's top Iraq expert, told Interfax news agency the most important thing was to "agree precisely on the concept of the Iraqi settlement".
He said Russia, which opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, could support "a two-stage approach", a short resolution followed by a longer document "spelling out in detail an Iraqi settlement game-plan." At talks attended by G8 industrialised nations foreign ministers in Washington on Friday, major powers challenged the United States to transfer real power to Baghdad in the handover.
Russia wanted the new government to be "truly sovereign". France, also a permanent Security Council member which opposed the Iraq invasion, said Washington must give up control over local forces. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States would withdraw its troops if the interim government made such an unlikely demand, but added that the top U.S. commander should remain free to take decisions as he felt necessary.