Russo-American expert consultations took place in Moscow on December 19-20. The sides discussed issues pertaining to the UN Security Council's intention to coordinate, by the end of May 2002, the new conditions for the delivery of goods to Iraq within the framework of the humanitarian programme. The two sides demonstrated their desire to work seriously and make the procedures more transparent, and deliveries of humanitarian and civil goods more simple and easy, which should become the programme's final result. Russia expressed concern over the fact that the number of contracts concluded by Russian companies with Iraq and put on hold at the committee on sanctions has considerably grown and reached 860 million dollars. The US side reported about the decision made to unfreeze some contracts to the total sum of 54 million dollars and promised to take the necessary measures for unblocking other contracts. An agreement was reached that the next round of expert consultations will be held at the end of January-the beginning of February, 2002. On December 20, deputy foreign minister of Russia Ordzhonikidze received US Under Secretary of State John Wolf and discussed with him the results of the Russo-American expert consultations. Russia confirmed its adherence to the settlement of the situation around Iraq on the basis of a well-known Russian initiative on the "package" approach, within the framework of which the sanctions in relation to Baghdad should be suspended and then lifted. This should be done together with international monitoring of the appropriate Iraqi military programmes. In connection with the reports about the possible US actions in relation to Iraq it was also declared that the Russian side resolutely objects to the holding of a military operation with regard to Baghdad within the framework of the next stage of the struggle against international terrorism. Such actions will only enhance tension in the region and lead to the disintegration of the anti-terror coalition the more so that Iraq's involvement in the terror attacks in the USA on September 11 has not been proved. In this context, the establishment of the zones over Iraq where flights have been banned were confirmed to be illegitimate. Such zones were established by the USA and Britain without the UN Security Council's sanctions. The need was also stressed to stop aviation strikes of these countries on the Iraqi territory.
An unidentified man wielding a knife attacked civilians in the Church of Notre Dame in the French city of Nice. Three people were killed, several others were hospitalised with injuries.One of the victims was beheaded