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Putin Calls for Halt to War in Iraq - 2003-03-28

Russian President Vladimir Putin has again called for a halt to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, saying a political settlement is the only path to peace.

President Putin says the only means to resolve what he describes as the "Iraqi problem" is an immediate end to hostilities and the resumption of diplomatic efforts through the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Putin told leaders of the political parties in the Russian Duma, the lower house of parliament, that the ongoing war threatens to erode global stability, as well as international law.

The Russian president also characterized the war as the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War and said the prime task for the international community now is to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.

Moscow has strongly opposed the use of force to achieve the aim of disarming Iraq and ousting its leader, President Saddam Hussein.

Since the outbreak of war, President Putin has vowed Russia will do all it can to see that the issue of Iraq is returned to the diplomatic arena.

President Putin has said international law must not be replaced by "the law of the fist." If that happens, he said, the principle of international sovereignty will be at risk.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also continued to press for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis, during separate talks Friday with Indian and Lebanese government officials.

Meanwhile, anti-war sentiment is growing in Russia.

Russia's Interfax news agency reports that a fast food chain in Siberia with more than 100 outlets across the region has called for a boycott on Coca-Cola drinks and other U.S. products to protest the war.

Earlier this month, a restaurant owner in the Urals began refusing to serve American or British customers as a result of the war. Similar protests have also sprung up in recent days in shops and restaurants in the Russian capital.