Russian President's Statement on Iraq Distributed as UN Official Document

The statement by the Russian President on Iraq was distributed on Thursday as an official document of the United Nations.

The press service of Russia's permanent mission at the United Nations reports that the statement, made by the head of the Russian state on Thursday at a conference in the Kremlin, has been distributed as an official document of the Security Council and the General Assembly and has also been sent to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In his speech Vladimir Putin called the military action against Iraq "a great political mistake" and said that Russia "insists on the immediate stopping of the military action." The Russian leader underscored that Russia "intends to pursue the policy towards bringing the situation back into peaceful track and achieving a legitimate solution of the Iraqi problem on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, taking into consideration the legitimate interests of the Iraqi people and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country." According to Vladimir Putin, the military action "cannot be justified by anything - either by accusations against Iraq that it supports international terrorism (we have never had such information, nor do we have it now), or by the ambition to change the political regime in that country, which directly contradicts international law and should be determined only by the citizens of a particular state." "And, finally, there was no need at all to resort to military action in order to answer the main question which was directly raised by the international community: does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction or not? And if it does have them, then what and when should be done to eliminate them?" said the head of the Russian state.

According to him, "by the time when the operation started Iraq had not posed any danger either to the neighbour states or to other countries or regions of the world, because (especially after the ten-year blockade) it was a weak country, both militarily and economically." Moreover, the President underscored, "it did not pose any danger during international inspections." "On the contrary, recently their activity had yielded serious positive results," stated the head of the Russian state.

Vladimir Putin said that "the joint work within the framework of the UN Security Council (including the joint efforts with the United States), the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1441, which does not authorise the use of force but made it possible to resume the activity of international inspectors, as well as a number of other measures to influence the Iraqi leadership marked the beginning of practical steps to disarm Iraq by peaceful means." Vladimir Putin underscored that the military operations against Iraq were being carried out "in defiance of the world public opinion, in spite of the principles and norms of international law and the UN Charter." On behalf of Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Vladimir Putin expressed gratitude to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the international inspectors. While speaking at the conference in the Kremlin, he underscored that he was doing this "regardless of how the situation around Iraq will develop further." According to the Russian president, the UN Secretary General and the international inspectors "have carried out their duty conscientiously," demonstrating "high professionalism and courage." He expressed confidence that "the institution of international inspectors will be required by the international community in the future, too."