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March 22, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Russia Accuses U.S. of Seizing Iraqi Oil
Russian Foreign Minister Accuses US of Stepping on Russia's Economic Interests in Iraq

The Associated Press


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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 diplomats.

"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 near Moscow.

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," Ivanov said.

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 global stability."


photo credit and caption:
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 Japaridze)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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