Despite meeting with Iraqi, Russia edges cautiously toward U.S. in conflict

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Tue Sep 3 04:53:25 MDT 2002

The following article highlights the way the European imperialist powers and
Russia are increasingly positioning themselves on the assumption that a U.S.
war on Iraq  is definitely coming, and seeking to protect their interests in
Iraq in the event that a U.S-directed occupation regime is established.  The
new French goverment has shifted in this direction under the presidency of
Chirac, joining the Berlusconi government in Italy and the Blair government
in Britain (the latter being the only one to basically join in Washington's
war planning).  It can be expected that a similar careful shift toward
Washington will follow the impending elections in Germany where Chancellor
Gerhard Schroeder has used opposition to the U.S, war drive against Iraq as
a campaign issue.  Note the Russian foreign minister's delicate suggestion
that Washington avoid seeking UN Security Council approval as this would
force Russia to decide whether to veto it.--Fred Feldman

September 3, 2002

A Bit Ambiguously, Russia Backs Iraq Over U.S. Threat

MOSCOW, Sept. 2 - The Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, stopped
here briefly today, seeking renewed support from a generally sympathetic
Kremlin against the threat of an American effort to remove Saddam Hussein
from power. He got it, but not as unambiguously as he might have liked.
After meeting with Mr. Sabri al-Hadithi, the Russian foreign minister, Igor
S. Ivanov, at a news conference with the Iraqi, repeated the Kremlin's
position that military action against Iraq "would seriously undermine the
already difficult situation in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East" and
make prospects for a permanent settlement of the region's problems even more
Mr. Ivanov also said Russia hoped the United Nations Security Council would
not be asked to approve military action against Iraq, "so there will be no
need for a Russian veto."
"We are closely analyzing statements made by Washington to the effect that
there is no alternative to a military solution," Mr. Ivanov said. "We have
not found a single solid argument in those statements to the effect that
Iraq poses a threat to U.S. national security. These statements are
Mr. Ivanov's other statements today were slightly more circumspect. In a
speech at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations earlier today, he
endorsed the notion of taking "pre-emptive measures" against global
problems, including international terrorism, but only through the United
Nations or other alliances.
He said countering terrorism had become the central problem since Sept. 11.
President Bush has couched his campaign for the removal of President Hussein
as a pre-emptive strike against a regime building weapons of mass
Mr. Ivanov also applauded statements today by Iraq's deputy prime minister,
Tariq Aziz, indicating that readmitting United Nations weapons inspectors to
Iraq was "still under consideration." Mr. Aziz, in Johannesburg for the
world summit meeting on the environment, said he hoped to meet Secretary
General Kofi Annan to discuss options for ending the crisis.
There was little else in Mr. Ivanov's remarks today to suggest that Russia's
longstanding view of the Iraqi situation has changed.
Russia has sought for years to bring about a political solution to the
standoff between Iraq and the United States, mostly with proposals under
which weapons inspectors might return to Iraq after a four-year absence. In
return, the United Nations would eventually end economic sanctions imposed
after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
But Iraq so far has rejected all Russian overtures. While Russia has
steadily opposed American military action to end the stalemate, it has
insisted that Mr. Hussein readmit arms inspectors and meet other conditions
the United Nations has imposed for lifting the sanctions.
In his remarks today, Mr. Ivanov did not disavow reports that Russian
officials in Washington have met with Iraqi opposition leaders who are bent
on deposing Mr. Hussein, though both he and Mr. Sabri al-Hadithi took pains
to dismiss the importance of those meetings.
"That was an ordinary event which, we think, was artifically blown out of
all proportion by certain mass media," Mr. Ivanov said. "As every diplomat
knows, one has to maintain contacts with the other party in order to have
broad and objective information. But this in no way indicates any adjustment
of Russia's policy line on Iraqi settlement."
Mr. Sabri al-Hadithi called the exiled Iraqi opposition leaders tools of
American and British intelligence and said the meeting had no impact on
Iraq's relations with Russia.
In fact, while Russia is opposed in principle to unilateral action against
Iraq, politicians here have openly suggested that Russia's stake is
economic, and that it has little interest in preserving Mr. Hussein's rule
if he can be removed in an internationally acceptable manner.
There was no indication today that Russia and Iraq were on the verge of a
new trade agreement. Iraqi officials had suggested that their country was on
the verge of signing a deal to purchase $40 billion or more in Russian goods
over the next decade, a figure Russia's Foreign Ministry quickly disavowed.
Russian officials have said they are working on a "framework accord" for
expanding trade, but only within the confines of existing United Nations
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi, left, with his Russian
counterpart, Igor S. Ivanov, after their talks yesterday in Moscow.

Main U.S. Goal Is Oil Supply, Iraq Says (September 3, 2002)

Rumsfeld Says Allies Will Support U.S. on Iraq (August 28, 2002)

Cheney Says Peril of a Nuclear Iraq Justifies an Attack (August 27, 2002)

Rumsfeld Warns That Iraq Ties Will Hurt Russian Pocketbooks (August 22,

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