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Russia's Putin defends stand with France on Iraq
February 11, 2003

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended his country's joint appeal with France and Germany for efforts to disarm Iraq peacefully and avoid war.

Putin said he hoped the appeal, announced Monday amid intense U.S. pressure for military action, would be heeded.

"We have not done this to build an axis or a bloc. We have not done this against something, but for something -- in this case in order to resolve a bitter world crisis in a peaceful way," Putin said in an interview on French television.

"We very much hope our opinion will be heard. It would be a grave error if unilateral actions were taken, outside the framework of international law," he told TF1 television.

China Tuesday voiced support for the joint declaration announced by Putin and French President Jacques Chirac Monday evening following talks at Chirac's Elysee Presidential Palace. Putin is on a three-day visit to France.

China has veto power on the United Nations Security Council along with Russia and France, which are both resisting pressure for military action from the other veto-wielding members, the United States and its closest ally Britain.

Putin said the declaration was also about trying to make sure other voices heard on the world stage.

"But I repeat, this is not just about Iraq, though this is an important question. An even more important question is what sort of world we want to build, what world we want to pass on to the next generation," he said.

"If we look at the problem, this way, we understand that if the world is to be more predictable, more understandable, safer, it must be multi-polar," he said.

"And all members of the international community should go by certain rules, the rules of international law. This is what our joint effort (with France and Germany) is about. Not to protect, or to provide a cover for the Iraqi leadership but to solve the problem taking account joint interests and respecting international law."

Putin was pressed by the French TV interviewer on whether his country would use its veto in the Security Council if it was needed to stand against any U.S. initiative that could spark military action against Iraq.

"At the moment we do not see a need to use our veto right. We are hoping we will be able to agree with all members of the Security Council, as we have before," he said. (with additional reporting from Moscow bureau)

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