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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2003/03/19/002.html Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2003. Page 1 Putin Says He Regrets Ultimatum By Simon Saradzhyan Staff Writer President Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday that he regretted the decision to issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, while the Foreign Ministry warned that an attack on Iraq without UN approval could lead to "a confrontation of civilizations." "Putin expressed regret in connection with Washington's decision on an ultimatum and also in connection with the failure of diplomatic efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise," the Kremlin press service said of the telephone conversation, which was initiated by Bush. Putin also stressed that "in any situation, the United Nations and its Security Council must play a central role in securing the international peace and stability," the Kremlin said in a statement. While differing over Iraq, however, the two leaders agreed that they should maintain bilateral contacts during any crisis, the statement said. Putin also discussed the Iraqi crisis by telephone Tuesday with China's new president, Hu Jintao, and they underlined "the commonality of their positions," the Kremlin said. The phone conversations came as Putin's chief diplomat, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, warned that a U.S.-led war in Iraq would undermine the international anti-terrorism coalition and might escalate into a global conflict. "It is important not to cross the line in which the war against terrorism might escalate into a confrontation of entire peoples, religions and civilizations," Ivanov told a security conference in Moscow. "Unfortunately today, in connection with the looming threat of war against Iraq, the unity of the international anti-terrorism coalition is under threat," said Ivanov, who has emerged as the harshest critic of war in the Russian government. In language reminiscent of the Yeltsin administration's opposition to U.S. global dominance, Ivanov said Russia stood for a "multi-polar" world in which the UN coordinates efforts to build up global security. Ivanov's remarks were the strongest salvo that has Russia fired to date in a war of words over Iraq. Putin said Monday that a war would be mistake imperiling international security, but he was careful not make any blunt warning to the United States and its allies. Ivanov reiterated that only the UN Security Council has the right to decide whether force can be used against Iraq. He also said the Iraq issue should return to the council's jurisdiction even if a military operation is started in Iraq. Ivanov left late in the day for New York to attend a Security Council meeting Wednesday. Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is to spell out what Iraq must do to prove it has disarmed. While pressing ahead for peace, Ivanov and other Russian officials acknowledged that war appeared to be inevitable and expressed concern about Russia's economic interests in a post-Hussein Iraq. "There is little hope left," Ivanov said. He said that Russia faces a fight convincing any new Iraqi regime to honor the contracts awarded by Hussein's government to Russian oil companies. His remarks were echoed by the Kremlin's Security Council secretary, Vladimir Rushailo, who said Russia would challenge any decision by a new regime to cancel the contracts in "international institutes," Interfax reported. Rushailo's deputy Oleg Chernov -- who was to fly with Ivanov to New York -- said Tuesday that Russia would have to do its best to restore peace in Iraq if war breaks out. "The world, including Russia and other interested countries, must do everything necessary to seek a path that brings peace to Iraq," Chernov was quoted by Interfax as saying. In the State Duma, deputies postponed a vote to ratify a U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty, and Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov warned that if war starts it might never be ratified. "In the event of an American strike on Iraq, the fate of the entire treaty will be in question," Seleznyov said during a visit to the Czech capital, Prague, Interfax reported. "The Americans are striking at international law," he said. Duma deputies decided that the Moscow Treaty, which was to have been considered Friday, will not be placed on the agenda until April -- and then they will only set a date for the vote. Putin and Bush signed the Moscow Treaty in May, and it was ratified by U.S. Congress earlier this month. It requires Russia and the United States to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads each, by 2012. Sergei Shishkaryov, the deputy chairman of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, directly linked the postponement of the treaty to Bush's ultimatum. "We consider ratification very important, but this step is not justified," he told Reuters. "We are standing on the verge of World War III, and the consequences of the beginning of military action in Iraq are to a large extent unpredictable," he said. Igor Sergeyev, Putin's adviser on global security, also warned that a war in Iraq could "lead to unpredictable consequences for international security." _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk