Kremlin asks: where's your proof on Iraq?

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2002 13:50:25 +0100

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, expressed deep unease last
night at Washington's failure to provide - even at the highest Kremlin
level - conclusive evidence justifying the need for an attack on Iraq. 
The Kremlin had yet to receive "conclusive data" linking Baghdad to
international terrorists or to programmes to develop weapons of mass
destruction, he said. 

Mr Ivanov dismissed speculation that the Bush administration had offered
a compensation package for the loss of Russia's multibillion pound
economic interests in Iraq in the event of military action. 

In the first interview a Kremlin minister has given to a western
newspaper since the Iraq negotiations began, Mr Ivanov told the Guardian
that the greatest threats to US-Russian relations were America's
"refusal to take into account the fact that the world is interdependent"
and its determination to undertake "unilateral measures that do not
resolve problems, but create new and unpredictable ones". 

Mr Ivanov was dismissive of Anglo-American attempts to negotiate a new
UN security council resolution and called for the immediate deployment
of weapons inspectors in Iraq. 

His critical assessment of US policy was made an hour before Tony Blair
arrived in Moscow in an attempt to win the Kremlin over to the
US-British plans on Iraq, and as Russian officials set out a bullish
bargaining position in advance of talks. 

Mr Ivanov, who is considered President Vladimir Putin's closest
confidant, said Russia was still right to have offered its backing to
America's war on terror, but that action against Iraq was entirely

"In the fight against terror in Afghanistan, we were the first to give
our clear support to unilateral steps. For us everything was clear about
Afghanistan before September 11. The situation is different with Iraq.
Generally speaking, the use of blind force without determining wrong
from right is extremely inappropriate." 

He added that despite a year of unprecedented intelligence-sharing
between Russia and the west, new information on Iraq had been scant. "We
do not have any data about either the financial or material support of
the Iraqi leadership for international terrorists," said Mr Ivanov,
adding that requests for such data had been made at the highest level. 

The remarks provide the first indication of Washington's obstinacy in
negotiating Russian support, and its refusal to suggest a solution that
would protect Russia's trade deals. 

Mr Ivanov insisted, however, that Russia could not be bought. "It is not
a matter of bargaining," he said. "We are sure that military force can
be used only after all - I repeat all - political and diplomatic
measures have been tried without any result." 

He stressed that Russia was greatly concerned about the global
proliferation of nuclear weapons, adding that states such as Iraq "are
closer to Russia's border that those of the UK or US". 

"But I want to underline that the decisive answer, yes or no, to such a
question as 'are there biological or chemical weapons [in Iraq]?' can
only be given by an effective inspection. The Russian position about
Iraq has been repeated clearly and we feel that there are many UN
members that share this position - even the majority." 

He said that while he took "general declarations" concerning Iraq's
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction very seriously, including the
Blair dossier, "unfortunately, I have not found facts which could prove
without doubt the presence [of such arms]". 

Mr Ivanov is considered to be among the more pro-western members of Mr
Putin's inner circle. He speaks fluent English, which he broke into

He insisted that he was "cautiously optimistic" about Russian-American
relations, and that "both sides would aspire to act in agreement with
each other on the key problems of security, partnership and economic
Source: The Guardian 

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