Russia, France Lash Out at Bush

Monday, 17 March 2003 19:46 by: Anonymous

     Russia Says War in Iraq a Mistake and Illegal
     By Viktor Korotayev

     Monday 17 March 2003

     Russia called for last-minute attempts to solve the Iraq crisis peacefully on Monday, saying any resort to force would be both a mistake and illegal.

     Russia has aligned itself with France and Germany in calling for further U.N. arms inspections to ensure that Iraq is free of what the United States says are illegal weapons. Like France, a fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, it has threatened to veto any new resolution endorsing military action.

     President Vladimir Putin, speaking before the United States and Britain said they would no longer seek a vote for a new resolution endorsing force, said any approach other than peaceful disarmament would be a mistake.

     "We would like to resolve it through political and diplomatic means," he told reporters. "I am convinced that any other solution would be a mistake."

     Putin, who has made infrequent statements at home on the crisis, said war "will not only bring about human casualties but also destabilise the international community in general.

     "There are 20 million Muslims living in Russia. We cannot afford not to consider their opinion and we fully share their alarm," he added.

     Both Washington and Britain say military action now against Iraq would be legal.

     But Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking after the abandonment of Washington's bid to seek U.N. endorsement for war, said existing U.N. Security Council resolutions gave no one any legal right to launch a strike on Iraq.

     "We believe the use of force against Iraq, especially with reference to previous resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, has no grounds, including legal grounds," Ivanov told reporters.


     Ivanov said resolution 1441 of last November, under which U.N. weapons inspections were resumed, gave no endorsement.

     "Resolution 1441, to which so many references are made, does not give anyone the right to use force automatically," he said.

     That resolution, approved unanimously, spoke of "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to comply with demands to disarm.

     Ivanov said the resolution contained a clause obliging Security Council members, if necessary, to meet immediately to ensure Iraq's strict implementation of its terms.

     There was still a chance, he said, for diplomacy to succeed.

     The Foreign Ministry said no decision had been made on whether Ivanov would fly to New York to press an 11th hour case. France, Germany and Russia called at the weekend for a Tuesday meeting of ministers of Security Council members.

     Georgy Mamedov, a deputy foreign minister, said Russia would do its best to minimise differences with Washington.

     "Russia will not launch an anti-American campaign, but will try its utmost to return the situation to a proper legal basis," Mamedov was quoted as telling Itar-Tass news agency.

     "We will not gloat over a tragic mistake by the United States or start a noisy campaign. Our relations are too important for international peace to hold them hostage to differences over the Iraq problem."

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     France: Most on Council Oppose War

     Monday 17 March 2003

     France said Washington and its allies abandoned their proposed U.N. resolution on Iraq after they realized they lacked a majority on the Security Council.

     French U.N. ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the United States, Britain and Spain "realized that the majority in the council is against and oppose a resolution authorizing the use of force."

     The U.S., UK and Spain announced Monday that they had abandoned efforts to seek a vote on their proposed second U.N. resolution on Iraq. (No resolution)

     A short time later, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said weapons inspectors and humanitarian workers were to be pulled out of Iraq. (U.N. withdrawal)

     De La Sabliere said a "huge majority" of the Security Council remained opposed to war.

     He said: "It would not be legitimate to authorize the use of force now while the inspections set out by resolution are producing results.

     "The co-sponsors made some bilateral consultation last night and this morning and the result is that the majority of the council confirmed that they do not want to authorize the use of force."

     Later Monday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France regretted the decision by the United States and its allies to abandon diplomacy.

     "Despite the clearly expressed will of the international community, the United States, Great Britain and Spain are today underlining their determination to resort to force," Villepin said in a statement.

     "France regrets a decision which nothing justifies today and which could have heavy consequences for the region and for the world.

     "True to its convictions, France reaffirms that in any case, the United Nations, the only bearer of international legitimacy, must play a central role in the settlement of the Iraqi crisis," he said.

     Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking in Moscow after the United States and its allies abandoned their proposed U.N. resolution, said no one had the legal right to go to war with Iraq under existing U.N. resolutions.

     "We believe the use of force against Iraq, especially with reference to previous resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, has no grounds, including legal grounds," Reuters quoted Ivanov as telling reporters.

     Both Washington and London say military action would be legal.

     "Resolution 1441, to which so many references are made, does not give anyone the right to use force automatically," he said.

     Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first direct comments since Sunday's summit, said on Monday that war in Iraq would be "a mistake fraught with the gravest consequences which may result in casualties and destabilize the international situation in general."

     Speaking to a group of Muslim clerics, Putin said Moscow continues to support exclusively a peaceful resolution of the crisis and "any other option would be a mistake."

     Germany, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, also reiterated its opposition to military action, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he would continue fighting for peaceful disarmament.

     "I think it is always worth it -- even in the last minute -- to push for peace and to fight for a peaceful disarmament," Schroeder told German television ZDF late Sunday, The Associated Press reported.

     Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunner Plugger said it was important to make a "100 percent effort" even if there's only a "1 percent chance of keeping the peace."

     Despite military action appearing imminent, France, Russia and German have asked the Security Council to schedule a meeting among foreign ministers on Wednesday to set a timetable for key disarmament tasks to be carried out.

     It wasn't clear how many of the 15 council foreign ministers would attend, AP said.

     (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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