MOSCOW - A senior U.S. diplomat said Friday he was confident that the United States and Russia would be able to reach agreement on how to force Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions to accept weapons inspectors and destroy its weapons of mass destruction.
However, U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton also said there would be no trade-offs in terms of Washington giving Russia a free hand in trying to force Georgia to turn over Chechen rebels believed to be on its territory in exchange for Moscow backing U.S.-led efforts against Saddam Hussein.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying hard to make the case that Russia should be allowed to act unilaterally against Georgia to crush what Moscow claims is a terrorist threat emanating from Georgia's alleged reluctance to deal with Chechens who have sought refuge on its territory.
Bolton told reporters that he expected President George W. Bush would work closely with Putin to resolve the Iraqi crisis just as the American and Soviet leaders cooperated during the Persian Gulf Crisis in 1990 and 1991.
"I am very confident that the two (foreign) ministers and the two presidents will work to reach agreement during this crisis as well," said Bolton at the end of a trip to Moscow for meetings with senior Russian defense and foreign ministry officials.
Russia has opposed unilateral American action against Ira Qand senior U.S. officials for months have been trying to bring the Russians around to Washington's view. Further high-level talks will be held in Washington next week during the first meeting of the Consultative Group on Strategic Security that will bring the defense and foreign ministers of both countries together.
The United States will take Russia's concerns into consideration and Bolton said Moscow's qualms would "be addressed seriously."
Bolton also said Iraq's decision to ignore resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, of which Russia is a key member, would weigh heavily in Moscow's decision as to how to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
The U.S. diplomat denied that there would be any dealmaking with Russia over the issue of Iraq, with Washington making economic or political concessions to Moscow in exchange for support of the American position.
"I don't really see this as a question of deals one way or the other," Bolton said.
Turning to the issue of Georgia, where Putin has been asserting Russia's right to act unilaterally, Bolton said there was no parallel with Iraq.
In a letter sent to world leaders this week, Putin complained about Georgia's inaction with regard to Chechen rebels and indicated Russia believed it had the right to launch attacks on Georgian soil to defend itself.
Putin has been attempting to draw parallels between the Russian-Georgia crisis and the U.S.-Iraq dispute, and some commentators in Russia have suggested that Russia would be willing to support Washington on Iraq in exchange for support on its Georgia policy.
However, Bolton stressed there would be no quid pro quo between the United States and Russia with regard to Georgia and Iraq.
"I would say on the subject of Iraq that President Bush has laid out our argumentation about that subject and I don't see that there are really any quid pro quos to be had whether with Russia or others. I think our case is extremely strong and stands on its own merit," Bolton said. He added that the issue of Iraq's contempt for the international community was "too serious" for that kind of haggling.
He also said he had nothing to add to U.S. State Department comment Thursday that the United States opposed "any unilateral military action by Russia" inside Georgia and supported Georgia's territorial integrity.
However, Bolton said he expected "intense discussion" by Georgian and Russian authorities on Russia's complaints. "One would hope that that would lead to a successful resolution," he said.