Geoffrey Hoon assures Britain will not to be part of US operation against Iraq

When addressing a news conference in St. Petersburg, following a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Geoffrey Hoon, Britain's Defence Secretary, disproved media reports claiming that Great Britain is going to take part in the US military operation against Iraq.

There has not been adopted a decision to launch a military operation against Iraq, said the British military.

Britain has been keeping an eye on Iraq which had posed a security threat to the region and the entire world, said Mr Hoon.

Operations in the "no-fly zones," which aim to protect civilians, are possible, however, admitted Mr Hoon.

Russia is analysing news coverage of the problem which is of deep concern to it, the Russian defence minister said on his part. The country is not involved in any discussions whatsoever concerning a possible campaign against Iraq, emphasised Mr Ivanov. "We do not approve of unilateral use of force not sanctioned by the UN Security Council," he said.

Russia believes that the global community's concern that Iraq allegedly possesses mass destruction weapons can be relieved in a far easier way, said Mr Ivanov. International inspectors could answer that question in the affirmative or negative for quite a short period of time, according to the minister.

Instability in relations between the Middle East and Central Asia is not the only thing that causes Russia's concern over the situation around Iraq, remarked the minister. "Iraq is our long-established partner and debtor, and we cannot be indifferent to what is going on there," said Sergei Ivanov.

Mr Hoon accused newsmen of fanning the problem. He said they were getting camouflage uniforms for covering the nonexistent operation. The British military reassured that no decision whatsoever on the operation had been adopted.

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