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Sensing division, Iraq will ask U.N. to lift sanctions

Emboldened by disarray in the Security Council, Iraq will push for a full lifting of economic sanctions after an apparent failure by the United States and Britain to persuade other nations to clamp new restrictions on Baghdad.

Despite personal appeals by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Russia, France and Egypt oppose a foreign travel ban on Iraqi military and intelligence officials for refusing to disclose information on banned weapons and allow unhindered inspections.The 15-member council meets Wednesday to try to reach agreement on a resolution responding to a report by U.N. weapons inspectors that Iraq is still hiding information on weapons banned in 1991 at the end of the Persian Gulf War.

Council members were trying to find a formula that threatens to impose the new measures unless Iraq complies fully with U.N. orders within six months, diplomats said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But the council would stop short of having the new sanctions kick in automatically in April, as the United States, Britain and others had sought.

Albright had appealed directly to the French and Russian foreign ministers to support the measure. As permanent members, Russia and France could veto any resolution.

Following a meeting Tuesday with U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson, Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said his government remained opposed to the proposed travel ban.