MOSCOW March 22 —
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov criticized the U.S.-led war on Iraq,
accusing Washington on Saturday of trying to seize control of Iraq's
oil while shutting out companies from Russia and elsewhere.
Baghdad owes Moscow at least $7 billion in Soviet-era debt and
has awarded lucrative oil contracts to Russian oil companies.
Ivanov said Washington's call to expel Iraqi diplomats seemed
part of a strategy to invalidate those oil deals by further
undermining the legitimacy of Saddam Hussein's regime. Russia has
refused to comply with the American request to force out the
"We will have to defend our interests so that the contracts which
were signed under Saddam Hussein are not annulled as lacking legal
force and to make sure the Iraqi debt owed us is respected," he said
in a speech to Russia's top political analysts, who were meeting
Ivanov also noted that civilians had already been killed just
days into the conflict and he argued the deaths confirmed that the
military strike was "indeed a big mistake."
Russia would oppose attempts to give a U.S. occupation of Iraq
international legitimacy through the United Nations, he said.
"Iraq does not need democracy brought on the wings of Tomahawks,"
Russia had joined France and Germany in leading opposition to
U.S. war plans in the United Nations. Yet, Ivanov continued to
emphasize the need for good relations with the United States.
"We believe Washington's action against Iraq is a mistake, but it
must not damage our long-term partnership," Ivanov said. "This
partnership has an independent importance as a major factor of
|Russia Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov gestures addressing the State Duma, Russian
parliament's lower house, in Moscow, Friday, March 21, 2003.
Igor Ivanov told the lower house of parliament that a foreign
occupation of Iraq without U.N. Secutiry Council permission
would be illegitimate. (AP Photo/Misha
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