Blair, Putin to Discuss UN Role in Post-war Iraq

British Prime Minister Tony Blairsaid Monday that he was to discuss the UN role in rebuilding Iraq with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at his monthly Downing Street press conference, Blair said: "We will obviously discuss the role of the UN in relation to Iraq and also how we make sure that we proceed in a better way within the United Nations over the coming months than we have up to now."

"And my contacts with both other Europeans and with President Putin lead me to believe that there is a better atmosphere developing and I hope we can resolve these issues and make sure that the UN is given its proper role at the same time as dealing with the reality on the ground of the coalition forces," Blair told reporters.

"I have said before, and I say again, I think with goodwill, this can be done and can be sorted and I look forward obviously to the discussion I will be having with President Putin on this issue," Blair added.

Blair, the staunchest US ally in the war with Iraq, was due to fly to Moscow on Tuesday morning and be back to London on Tuesday evening, a Downing Street spokeswoman said on Monday.

Earlier media reports said Blair's coming visit was aimed at swaying Putin over lifting UN sanctions on Iraq.

US President George W. Bush has urged the United Nations to lift its sweeping sanctions on Iraq, insisting that the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was already gone.

But Russia and France, who strongly opposed the US-led war against Iraq, expressed their opposition to "automatically" lifting sanctions on Iraq just because of the regime change in Iraq as suggested by Bush.

Moscow and Paris maintained that it was up to the UN Security Council to decide whether and how to remove the sanctions.

Putin said he would not allow sanctions to be lifted until chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and his UN weapons inspection team are allowed to return in Iraq. But up to now, the United States would not allow Blix's team back into the country.

People's Daily Online ---