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Russian Foreign Minister Reaffirms Opposition to US Attack on Iraq - 2002-09-02

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has again stressed his country's opposition to a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq and is urging Baghdad to allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Mr. Ivanov said military action against Iraq would complicate a possible diplomatic settlement and undermine the situation in the Middle East.

Mr. Ivanov said Russia believed the only solution to the situation in Iraq is a political one. He added that Moscow has no evidence that Iraq is a threat to U.S. security.

The foreign minister spoke after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, Naji Sabri. Mr. Sabri is in Moscow as part of efforts by Baghdad to shore up support against a possible U.S. use of force against Iraq.

The United States says Baghdad is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and has argued for swift action to prevent their development and use.

Russia has been one of the leading critics of such an attack, arguing instead for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

Russia has also called for U.N. weapons inspectors to be allowed back into Iraq to see if Baghdad is building weapons of mass destruction.

After the meeting, the Russian foreign minister said Russia considers it necessary to allow weapons inspectors back into Iraq, saying Russia does not see any alternative. The weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and have not been allowed to return.

The Russian foreign minister said he hopes the U.N. Security Council is not asked to approve a military attack against Iraq, then a Russian veto would not be necessary.

One reason Russia is trying to stave off a military attack is that Russia is one of Iraq's main trading partners. A possible military attack on Iraq would endanger Russian economic interests in the area.

Also, Baghdad owes Russia billions of dollars in Soviet-era debt and Russian oil companies active in rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure could stand to lose a great deal of money if the United States invades or attacks Iraq.

The Iraqi foreign minister is scheduled to fly to Cairo on Tuesday.