Russia warns US about terrorism

RUSSIA: Russia underlined its refusal to countenance war in the Gulf yesterday, warning Washington that an attack on Baghdad…

RUSSIA: Russia underlined its refusal to countenance war in the Gulf yesterday, warning Washington that an attack on Baghdad could unleash terrorist reprisals across the globe.

Meanwhile, Iraq's ambassador to Moscow said his countrymen could become "living bombs" to defend their homeland.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr Igor Ivanov, denounced US plans to oust President Saddam Hussein, and one of his deputies said the staunch refusal of Russia and France to bend to Washington's demands over Iraq had helped bring closer a peaceful end to an arms impasse that has split the UN Security Council. Mr Ivanov, visiting Iran, said war against Baghdad could spark "the activation of terrorism in every region of the world".

He told Washington that the current UN resolution demanding the destruction of Iraq's alleged cache of biological and chemical weapons made no provision for deposing Mr Hussein as leader of the oil-rich state.

"We are against that - no resolution has asked for regime-change and this is something for the Iraqi people to decide," he said.

"All the conditions are set for Iraqi disarmament to take place as soon as possible through political means." Mr Ivanov also called on the US to help heal a growing rift in the international community, and deemed "acceptable" a French proposal to convene a summit of heads of state to debate the Iraq question.

Mr Ivanov said this week that military action against Iraq could lead to a massacre, and Baghdad's ambassador to Russia yesterday concurred, promising that ordinary Iraqis would do all they could to defend their homeland.

"If, heaven forbid, war begins, then we are ready for anything," Mr Abbas Khalaf, told the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

"We are not going to line the Americans' path with flowers - we will cut them to bits." He said Iraqis were ready to become "Shahids" - martyrs - in the defence of Mr Hussein. "The history of mankind has seen many Shahids," Mr Khalaf said. "Everywhere, where people suffer aggression, a person can become a living bomb."

Mr Gennady Seleznyov, the speaker in Russia's lower house of parliament, returned yesterday from a meeting in Baghdad with Mr Hussein, and commended the Iraqi leader for his "incredible composure".

"He said he was sure that the UN would not allow this [military] action," Mr Seleznyov said.

"He also expressed gratitude to the Russian people and the president of our country for the firmness and the consistency with which they are defending their position at the UN."