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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Military operations outside Iraq unacceptable - FM Lavrov

RIA Novosti

21/02/2007 15:05 MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian foreign minister said Wednesday U.S.-led multinational foreign forces in Iraq must not conduct military operations outside the country, including against Iran.

"The multinational force in Iraq should abide strictly by the UN Security Council's mandate, which does not provide for any operations outside the country," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with weekly Lebanese magazine Al-Watan Al-Arabi.

The long-standing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran deteriorated further January 11 when American servicemen burst into Iran's mission in Erbil (Kurdistan) and detained five officials. American troops disarmed guards and confiscated computers and documents without providing any explanation.

Earlier this month the United States accused Iran of backing the insurgency and unrest in Iraq, and suspects the Islamic Republic of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program.

"The escalation of the conflict and its possible spread beyond the Iraqi borders will inevitably result in catastrophic consequences and not for the Middle East alone," Lavrov said adding "I believe Washington understands this."

The minister said a coordinated and well thought-out timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq will help to stabilize the situation in the country.

"But at the same time we believe that U.S. Army detachments and their coalition allies should not leave Iraq tomorrow," Lavrov said.

He said the timetable for the withdrawal of forces should be measured and gradual, while responsibility for security in the country should be simultaneously handed over to the Iraqis. Lavrov added that in order to do so, the Iraqi police, law enforcement bodies and the Army had to be reinforced.

Following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq quickly sank into sectarian violence from which it has yet to emerge.

All ongoing international efforts to restore peace and stability there have so far proved futile, and Russia, which has always opposed the war in Iraq, has repeatedly called on the international community to withdraw foreign troops from the country.

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