KIEV - Visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday that Moscow has no plans to contribute troops to the U.S.-led stabilization force in Iraq.
Ivanov stressed the situation in Iraq is "far from normalized" and that restoration of "normal economic life" should be carried out by the United Nations. Russian peacekeepers only serve in missions approved by the United Nations, Ivanov said.
Ivanov's comments came after his newly appointed Ukrainian counterpart Yevhen Marchuk briefed him on Kiev's plans to send a 1,800-man contingent to Iraq. They will join a Polish-led force charged with maintaining order and helping set up new civilian authorities in a zone of central-southern Iraq between the British-run area in the south and the U.S.-controlled zone in the north.
Also Tuesday, Ukraine and Russia signed an agreement on the dismantling and return of strategic bombers and aircraft equipment called for under the START-1 arms control treaty, as well as a pact calling for Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense and air forces to train at Russian military ranges.
Ivanov also stressed Moscow's strong support for completing joint production of the long-awaited An-70 military transport aircraft, despite "a mass of technical difficulties." Speculation had swirled that Russia might pull out of the deal after a top air force official criticized the project's costs and technical shortcomings.
Ivanov met Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Sunday and planned talks with other top officials before leaving for Ukraine's Black Sea port of Sevastopol to visit Russia's Navy units.
Russia inherited the bulk of the once-proud Soviet Black Sea Fleet after fierce disputes with Ukraine in the early 1990s, but most of the ships have been idled by a shortage of batteries and other spare parts.