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    RUSSIA, BELARUS READY TO RESTORE IRAQ UNDER UN AEGIS

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    MINSK, February 2, 2004. /RIA Novosti correspondent/ - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his Belarussian counterpart Sergei Martynov have announced their countries' readiness to participate in restoration of Iraq under the UN aegis.

    After the joint collegium of the two ministries they told journalists that the subject of Iraq was not touched upon at the session.

    "However, as for Iraq, we do not need consultations on the issue, we maintain a permanent contact in this respect," Ivanov said.

    "After Iraq's sovereignty is restored, Russia with an overwhelming majority of states will be ready to participate more actively in the process of economic and political restoration of Iraq," he emphasized.

    At the same time, the current situation in the country "remains very difficult," taking into account the recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad and "it is too early to speak of a soon settlement," the Russian minister pointed out.

    He pointed to the common stand of Russia and Belarus on the settlement in Iraq. Russia "has a rich experience of cooperation in the direction, as well as a number of projects that are in line with the interests of Iraq's restoration and have been coordinated with Iraqi specialists", he added.

    "As soon as the situation with security in Iraq will allow launching them, we will be ready to actively participate in the process," the minister emphasized.

    Martynov supported his counterpart's position on the issue and recalled that Belarus had been "among those countries that participated in the Oil for Food program".

    Belarus will also be interested in assisting to restore Iraq after it has established sovereignty the Iraqi people have a full right for, he pointed out. The minister emphasized the central role of the UN in the Iraqi settlement and the country's restoration afterwards.

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