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World - Middle East

Russia: Iraq airstrikes a blow to world order

Protesters clash with police outside American University in Cairo, Egypt
Attack on Iraq: An image gallery
Saddam calls on Iraqis to continue resistance

Egypt urges Clinton to 'contain the crisis'

December 18, 1998
Web posted at: 12:39 p.m. EST (1739 GMT)

In this story:

MOSCOW (CNN) -- As Russian leaders warned Friday that their country's relations with the West may be seriously damaged by the attack on Iraq by the United States and Britain, street protests in Egypt against the raids intensified.

"This strike on Iraq is also a very strong blow on the whole system of international relations," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told CNN.

Ivanov said he telephoned U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Friday and told her, "Everything must be done to rule out a setback in our relations."

Albright remains confident after talking with Ivanov that Russia wants to maintain broad-based relations despite differences over Iraq, said State Department spokesman James Rubin.

He said she intended to go ahead with a planned trip to Moscow in January.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged U.S. President Bill Clinton in a telephone call to show "self-restraint and contain the crisis to avoid further deterioration," Egyptian state media said Friday.

Hundreds of Egyptians burned U.S. flags and shouted anti-U.S. slogans near Cairo's al-Azhar mosque in a second day of protests.

"Each Muslim must support the Iraqis, who have been subject to injustices, including their rulers' practices," said Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, grand sheikh of al-Azhar, during the Friday prayer sermon. "When we see Iraqis subject to injustices and shelling, and the killing of innocents, we have to stand by them."

Many other Muslim nations, as well as China, have also spoken out strongly against the bombing campaign.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzo added to China's official condemnation on Friday, expressing "deep regret" over the attacks in a statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

Zhu renewed Beijing's demand for an immediate halt to the military action.

Russia recalls ambassador to Britain

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday it had recalled its ambassador to Britain for urgent consultations due to the strikes against Iraq. The move came one day after the Russian ambassador to Washington was recalled as a protest.

"We're conducting serious consultations," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said. "The way we're going to act depends largely on the political line of Washington and London."

The Kremlin said diplomatic relations with Washington and London would not be broken.

Albright: Russians 'had no ideas'

Albright said Friday that Russia's decision to recall its ambassador from Washington was "unfortunate," adding that the United States was not recalling its ambassador to Moscow.

"We obviously disagree about the use of force in Iraq," Albright told CNN. "The Russians have a different view about the use of force. They wanted diplomacy, but the truth is, they had no ideas."

British ministers said Friday that the rift with Russia over allied attacks on Iraq would not damage relations between Moscow and London in the long term.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook spoke with Ivanov by phone, a Cook spokesman said. "They agreed the U.K. and Russia should work together in the post-military phase (of the Iraq crisis) and the tone was friendly throughout," the spokesman said.

Russia's State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, was to consider calls Friday for Russia to unilaterally break U.N. sanctions against Iraq and provide aid to Baghdad.

Ivanov cautioned, however, that "unilateral action is not a solution to the situation around Iraq," the Interfax news agency said.

In unusually strong criticism from the Russian military, Gen. Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's international military cooperation department, said the attack could lead to a major separation from the West.

Moscow "will be forced to change its military-political course and may become the leader of a part of the world community that disagrees with the (U.S.) dictate," ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

Chirac, Blair discuss crisis

French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Friday discussed ways to end the Iraqi crisis after a second wave of airstrikes.

Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said the two leaders discussed ways to define a new relationship between Baghdad and the United Nations to ensure Iraq's disarmament.

France, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, and Italy have said airstrikes will not solve the concerns caused by Iraq's alleged stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Friday he hoped for a political solution to the crisis in Iraq.

He reiterated the German position that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was responsible for developments that led to the airstrikes, dismissing talk that Germany's Social Democrat- Greens coalition was split on the issue.

"Our position is quite clear. We cannot accept the existence of potential (weapons) of mass destruction in the hands of the government of Iraq," said Fischer, a Greens leader.

Correspondent Steve Harrigan and Reuters contributed to this report.

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