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Diplomacy efforts picking up

Iraq said on Sunday diplomatic efforts to resolve a crisis over weapons inspection were gaining momentum but it offered few signs it would soften its refusal to let U.N. inspectors into controversial "presidential sites."

"Diplomatic efforts are continuing. They are gaining momentum," Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told a news conference in Baghdad."We think diplomatic efforts (are) the way to defuse the situation, and Iraq is dealing with all those efforts in a very constructive way."

Russian envoy Viktor Posuvalyuk arrived in Iraq earlier on Sunday on a mission from President Boris Yeltsin. France said it was sending an envoy to Baghdad in the next 48 hours and Turkey has also offered to mediate.

The United States and Britain, which have a powerful military force in the gulf, have warned that the time for diplomacy is running out. Russia, which is opposed to the use of force against Baghdad, has called for patience.