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RUSSIA SEES IRAQ-CRISIS SOLUTION.

Byline: Colin McMahon Chicago Tribune

As President Clinton sent more U.S. warplanes to the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, the Kremlin announced that two days of intensive talks with Iraqi officials had produced a plan that Russian officials said could resolve the conflict between Baghdad and the United Nations over weapons inspections.

Officials in the Russian capital would not disclose details of the proposal, nor was it clear how the United States and its allies might respond to Moscow's handiwork.

While saying the Clinton administration did not know much about the plan, a senior administration official said the White House was ``a little leery,'' noting that Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said a principal point in the proposal called for ``light at the end of the tunnel for Iraq,'' referring to an eventual end of the U.N. sanctions that have crippled Iraq's economy.

The U.S. official said the administration does not know precisely what this phrase means, and ``therefore we are very cautious about it until we see a little more flesh on the bones.''

As the White House understood it, the plan Primakov talked about called for Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions, full access for U.N. weapons inspectors and a definite timetable in which Iraq could be certified as having met U.N. conditions for ending the sanctions.

Primakov might have held back details, especially on the ``light at the end of the tunnel'' element, the official said, ``because he may be trying to get more from Iraq.''

In a letter from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin, delivered during a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Saddam ``expressed his wish to find a balanced political solution,'' according to the Iraqi Embassy. The Iraqi leader also laid out specific proposals, the embassy said, declining to elaborate.

The United States, meanwhile, dispatched more military aircraft - as many as 45 in all, including six B-52 bombers and six F-117A stealth fighters - to the Persian Gulf region.

Clinton also authorized the U.S. military commander in the region to deploy an air expeditionary force of about 30 additional fighters and B-1 bombers if necessary, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.

Bacon said the new deployment was triggered not only by the dispute with Baghdad over arms inspections but by ``extremely active'' Iraqi air defense movements, some of which he called an offensive threat to U.S. and allied jets patrolling ``no-fly'' zones over northern and southern Iraq.

However, a U.S. spy plane flew a U.N. mission over Iraq on Tuesday without incident, despite Baghdad's threat to shoot down the high-flying, unarmed craft.

The military buildup came even as senior White House officials said they could accept changes in oil-related sanctions levied on Iraq and the makeup of the U.N. Special Commission inspection teams.

``We are proceeding ahead on two tracks,'' said Samuel Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser.

``As long as (U.N. officials) make their judgments not based upon some political factors but based upon . . . technical competence,'' a smaller number of American inspectors could be acceptable, Berger said. ``It's been up to UNSCOM from the beginning.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 19, 1997
Words:532
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