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22.03.2003 11:09:01
Ivanov asks for clarification of U.S. request to deport Iraqi diplomats
MOSCOW REGION. March 22 (Interfax) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has asked the U.S. Department of State to clarify its request for deportation of Iraqi diplomats. No reply has been received yet.

   "What kind of threat can [Iraqi diplomats] pose to the U.S. security? This is strange, to say the least," Ivanov said at a session of the non-governmental Foreign and Defense Policy Council.

   The United States probably wants to indicate that all the previous contracts signed with the Iraqi side are invalidated and those who have economic interests in Iraq will have to start anew with an administration that will appear in Iraq after the U.S. military action is over, Ivanov noted.

   A goal of the Russian foreign policy is to protect Russia's lawful economic interests in Iraq, he said.

   "Quite a few falcons will want to profit from Iraq's resources after the bombardment is over," he said.

   "Although they are saying at present that the resources belong to the Iraqi people, the desire to get hold of them will be strong," he said.

   "Our priority is to protect our lawful interests," he said.

   "Attempts have already been made to declare all ambassadors persona non-grata and freeze all Iraq's accounts. This is not happening accidentally. It is a way of stating that everything done until now is illegal and all contracts are illegal. Legality starts with the arrival of a new administration, even if it is temporary," he said.

   "We have not done anything illegal in that country. Russia's economic presence is not different from other countries' presence and should be respected in keeping with international laws," he said.

   "Companies may have breached something but this is not of principal importance. The key thing is that Russia's official position, the forms of its cooperation were strictly consistent with the norms stipulated by the UN Security Council in connection with the sanctions regime," he said.

   Furthermore, Russia's political stance on Iraq is not linked to any economic benefits or concessions. "We are not trading oil for politics," he said. [RU US DIP IQ EUROPE ASIA EEU EMRG POL] sa <>

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