Russia's foreign minister praised the U.N. resolution on disarming Iraq, saying Saturday that it averted the threat of war and paved the way for lifting sanctions.

The Security Council unanimously approved the U.S.-drafted resolution Friday. It gives weapons inspectors wide latitude to hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"This resolution averts the real threat of war and opens the way for further work in searching for a political-diplomatic resolution around Iraq," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

France, Russia and China opposed the inclusion of so-called "hidden triggers" that would automatically sanction the use of force if Iraq does not comply. After the resolution was passed, the three countries issued a joint interpretation that said the resolution excludes automatic use of force.

"Formulas unacceptable to Russia have been removed from the resolution," Ivanov was quoted as saying. "It does not contain the automatic sanctioning of the use of force."

However, President Bush warned Friday that if Saddam Hussein fails to cooperate the United States will not hesitate to take military action to eliminate its suspected nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs.

Ivanov said Iraq's cooperation with the United Nations would "open prospects for a comprehensive settlement of the Iraqi issue, which includes the lifting of sanctions."

Russia has deep economic interests in Iraq and has been Baghdad's main ally on the Security Council.

The Kremlin is worried about the $7 billion Baghdad owes in Soviet-era debt and about whether Russian oil companies would continue to have access to Iraq's petroleum fields if Saddam falls.