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Anti-terror operations only in first phase -Russia
November 27, 2001
By Tara FitzGerald

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said Tuesday global operations to rout out terrorism were only in their first phase but it did not support military action against Iraq.

"We are very, very far from victory (over terrorism)," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a close aide of President Vladimir Putin, was quoted by Interfax news agency as telling reporters.

"Counter-terrorist operations are in a first, starting phase and no more than that. The civilized world has not yet touched other countries where nests of terrorism are being made."

It was not clear to which countries Ivanov was referring.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov though made clear in an interview with Interfax that Russia's opposition to military action against Iraq was well known.

It was the first time any Russian figure of Ivanov's rank had even obliquely suggested the U.S.-led fight against terrorism, wholly supported by Russia, might be directed against countries other than Afghanistan.

President Bush demanded Monday that Baghdad allow international weapons inspections to resume in Iraq, saying the global war on terrorism also targeted those who produced weapons of mass destruction "to terrorize the world."

Bush's comments were the most explicit linkage so far of Iraq to the U.S.-led war on terrorism launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 airliner attacks on the United States.

Russia has allied itself with the United States in the fight against terrorism, but it also has a strong commercial interest in maintaining good ties with Baghdad -- something much disliked by the United States.


Deputy Foreign Minister Saltanov said an unprovoked strike on Iraq would have a very negative impact on the situation in the Middle East.

"If we are talking in the context of an anti-terrorist campaign, there is no evidence pointing to Baghdad's involvement in the events of September 11," said Saltanov, who heads the Foreign Ministry's Africa and Middle East department.

He said the Iraqi problem could only be solved through political and diplomatic means on the basis of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions not through military action.

"In this case there would be a high probability of radicalizing the mood in Arab countries, further complicating the crisis in the Palestinian territories, and seriously destabilizing the situation in the Persian Gulf."

He said it would also make it difficult to preserve the unity of the international coalition against terrorism.

Western jets have already conducted dozens of attacks against Iraqi targets in no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq in the past decade.

The zones, which are not recognized by Baghdad, were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurds in the north and Shi'ite Muslims in the south from attack by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's military.

The latest strike by U.S. warplanes was Tuesday.

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