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Putin Calls War Against Iraq a 'Mistake'

Russian President Vladimir Putin says war against Iraq would be a mistake.

After weeks of silence on the subject, President Putin Monday said war against Iraq would be a mistake fraught with the gravest consequences for Iraq and the international community as a whole.

President Putin said Russia supports resolving the problem exclusively through peaceful means. He said to act otherwise in order to disarm Iraq would only lead to casualties and destabilize global security.

Mr. Putin said Russia's position throughout the diplomatic stand-off has been clear, no automatic use of force against Iraq and no ultimatums.

Earlier on Monday, a senior Russian foreign ministry official expressed confidence that Russia's view that a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis is still possible was shared by a majority of the members of the U.N. Security Council.

The official, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, also said there is no chance, in his view, that Washington will win U.N. Security Council approval for a draft resolution on disarming Iraq that Britain has proposed.

Mr. Fedotov said Russia continues to believe no new resolution on Iraq is needed.

Mr. Fedotov said Russia still favors continued international weapons inspections in Iraq. He also said Russia supports a French call for continued Security Council consultations. But President Bush has said diplomatic efforts will end by Monday night.

Russia's Fedotov acknowledged Monday that the situation is "quite serious."

A short while after Mr. Fedotov spoke, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko advised Russian nationals living in Iraq to leave, citing worsening conditions. Russia has already carried out at least four evacuation flights in recent days for its nationals in Iraq.