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Russia Blasts US and British Air Strikes on Iraq
16 July 2002
Russia has condemned British and U.S. air strikes on Iraq, accusing them of complicating peace efforts in the Middle East and the Gulf, amid mounting speculation over US plans to oust Saddam Hussein.
The U.S. armed forces bombed what they said were military targets in Iraq's southern "no-fly" zone on Saturday and Sunday, striking a mobile radar unit and air defense facilities.
Iraqi spokesmen said one person had been killed and six were wounded when allied planes struck civilian targets on Sunday. A further seven were hurt in strikes the previous day.
"Russia is convinced that such operations in illegitimate "no-fly" zones complicate the efforts of the international community to find a political and diplomatic solution to the Iraqi problem, and to ease tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf region," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
U.S. and British jets patrol "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq set up by Western powers after the 1991 Gulf War. The Iraqi government does not recognize the zones, ostensibly set up to protect minority populations from possible attacks by Baghdad.
Russia, which has close economic ties with Baghdad, has long spoken out against U.S. plans for military action against Iraq, judged by Washington to be part of the "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea.
Washington, which accuses the "axis" of seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction, says Iraq has been a threat since it invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering the Gulf War.
Published by Reuters © 2002 Reuters Ltd