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Russia critical of air strikes in Iraq

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February 18, 2001 


MOSCOW-- (AP) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq have worsened tensions in the Middle East and Gulf regions.

"These unprovoked actions signal that Washington and London continue relying on the use of force against Iraq," a ministry statement said. The attacks "are aggravating the volatile situation in the Middle East anbd the Persian Gulf."

"Russia always strongly objects to any U.S. forces' action, whomever they are directed against, if these actions bypass the U.N. Security Council resolutions," Sergei Prikhodko, the deputy presidential chief of staff, told the Interfax news agency.

Alexander Yakovenko, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Moscow "was concerned" over the U.S. and British air strikes on facilities near Baghdad.

"Russia firmly insists on the need to adhere to the U.N. Security Council's resolutions in relation to Iraq," Yakovenko said in a statement. "Any actions running counter to the international law can only complicate the settlement of the problem of Iraq."

The air strikes Friday were the first outside the "no-fly" zone over southern Iraq in more than two years. The Pentagon said five targets were struck, including long-range surveillance radars and associated facilities.

It was the first military action ordered by President George W. Bush.

Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's international cooperation department, said Friday, "what the American militarists are doing at the start of the new administration's activity is a challenge to international security and the entire world community.

"It is not the first time that when the issue of the Iraqi dossiers was about to be closed, the U.S. unleashes military actions and in fact ruin this process," Ivashov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

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