Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Saturday, March 22, 2003

Iraq War Could Destabilize Other Regions, Says Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the US-led war against Iraq could lead to instability in other regions and increased extremism.


Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the US-led war against Iraq could lead to instability in other regions and increased extremism.

"The crisis has spilled beyond the local conflict and has become a source of instability in other regions, including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)," Putin was quoted by theInterfax news agency as speaking at a meeting of top security officials from the CIS countries.

"The war against Iraq is fraught with unpredictable consequences, including increased extremism," he added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said in a speech at theState Duma, lower house of parliament, that attacking civilians and civilian objects would be illegitimate.

"The question arises as to how the norms of international law will be observed in the course of this operation, in particular, the prohibition on attacking civilians and civilian objects, usingnon-precision weapons and harming the environment," he said.

He also alleged that the US-led coalition for the immediate disarmament of Iraq was "more like an amorphous thing, which Washington and London are trying to present as a coalition to showthey're not alone."

Despite his tough words, Ivanov told lawmakers that the Russian-US rift over the Iraq issue must not be allowed to derail the anti-terrorist coalition formed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States.

"While solving the issue of Iraq, we must not forget that we also face global problems and we should not make the anti-terror coalition a victim of this problem, over which we and the United States disagree," he added.

After Ivanov's address, the State Duma passed a resolution calling on Putin to urge the UN Security Council to send UN forcesto Iraq and convene a special session of the UN General Assembly.

The United States launched air strikes against Iraq early Thursday, hours after the expiry of a US ultimatum demanding IraqiPresident Saddam Hussein leave Iraq within 48 hours or face war.

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the UN Security Council, has repeatedly voiced opposition to military operations against Iraq, and called for further weapons inspections in the country.

On Thursday, Putin urged the United States to immediately stop the war in Iraq, criticizing it as a "big political mistake" that threatens international security and could cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday that the first Russian relief plane would reach Kermanshah, Iran, late Friday. It will carry a mobile hospital with the capacity to treatup to 5,000 refugees, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

As for requests to freeze Iraqi assets, Finance Minister AlexeiKudrin said Moscow had no evidence suggesting that Saddam was laundering funds through Russian accounts.

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