- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

MOSCOW, March 20 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday condemned the U.S.-led attack on Iraq and demanded a "quick end of military operations."

Putin summoned his key aides to an emergency session of Russia's Security Council, declaring that "military action cannot be justified by anything."

Calling the declaration of war against Iraq a "serious political mistake," Putin warned continued "unjustified" military action against Baghdad threatened international security and could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe of major proportions.

"There was no need for military action to answer the international community's main question — are there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and if so, what must be done, and in what time period, to liquidate them?" Putin said.

Putin said international weapons inspectors had made great progress in Iraq, before being ordered out under threat of war.

"If we allow international law to be replaced by the law of the fist, under which the strong is always right … and has unlimited choice of methods to achieve its goals, then one principle of international law, the principle of the inviolability of the sovereignty of states, will be thrown into question," Putin said.

"If rule of force replaces international security structures, no country in the world will feel secure, and … the base of instability will grow and create negative consequences in other regions of the world," he said.

"I would like to stress that the military action is taking place contrary to international public opinion, contrary to the principles of international law."

"For these very reasons, Russia demands the quickest possible end to the military action," he said.

Putin insisted the situation should be handled by the U.N. Security Council within the framework of international law.

"Russia will pursue the return of the situation to a peaceful course and the achievement of a real solution to the Iraq question on the basis of U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said, addressing Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexiy II also called on the United States and Britain to "stop the bloodshed in Iraq," while Russian politicians representing parties from left, right and center condemned the war and decried a possible collapse of the existing international rule of law.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, passed a resolution asking Putin to request an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. The resolution was passed by 226 votes to 101.

The Duma also urged U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to give his "assessment" of the continuing military operation against Iraq, stressing that the United States and Britain had "violated the U.N. Charter, universally recognized principles of international law and rules governing responsible conduct."




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