US insists Russians helping Iraq
* Bush conveys concern to Putin
* France says force can’t bring peace
WASHINGTON: The United States believes Russian company technicians are in Baghdad helping the Iraqis operate electronic jamming systems that could impair the US-led war against Iraq, a US official said on Monday.
US President George W Bush telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to protest against alleged Russian sales of night-vision goggles, antitank missiles and global positioning system (GPS) jamming systems to Iraq, the White House said. US officials said such sales would violate UN sanctions. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov denied Russia had supplied Iraq with any military equipment in breach of UN sanctions.
In the telephone call, “The two discussed US concerns involving prohibited hardware that has been transferred from Russian companies to Iraq,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Asked if Washington had evidence the items were being used by Iraq, he said: “They were not provided for the purpose of sitting on shelves.”
US officials believe the alleged sales have been carried out by private Russian firms and they want greater oversight by Russian authorities to stop them. Analysts and officials in Moscow said Iraq could have acquired the equipment via a third country, like Syria or Ukraine.
Mr Putin, meanwhile, urged Mr Bush to avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war in Iraq during the telephone conversation, the Kremlin said.
“In their exchange of views, the Russian side focussed on the humanitarian consequences of the military actions,” a Kremlin statement said. “Putin repeated his existing position on resolving Iraq,” it added. The Russian president also asked Iraq to respect international law on prisoners of war as Moscow said it would call on the UN to rule on the legality of the US-led war.
‘Force cannot bring peace’: French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Monday that force alone could not bring peace to the world and powerful countries should use their strength to unite the international community.
Mr Villepin, speaking to the UN Commission on Human Rights, declared that international law could not be advanced by violating its provisions. –AFP/Reuters