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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 14:52 GMT
Putin warns US on Iraq
Supporters of the ruling Baath party parade in Baghdad
The US says Iraq is part of an "axis of evil"
Russia's president Vladimir Putin has warned the US not to take unilateral military action against Iraq.

Mr Putin told the Wall Street Journal that any use of force by the US against Iraq "should be justified" and have the backing of the international community.

First of all we need to secure the return of UN monitors

President Putin

"We oppose the drawing up of black lists," Mr Putin said, referring to President George W Bush's naming of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech last month.

Following that speech, Russia and several US allies expressed concern that the US was preparing a more belligerent Iraq policy in the wake of its successful campaign in Afghanistan.

Policy review

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Mr Putin said the Iraq problem had to be solved via the UN
US media reported on Monday that the Bush administration was conducting a major review of its dealings with Iraq and one option was to take military action.

The review is due to be finished in time for a planned visit to the Middle East by Vice President Dick Cheney next month.

Mr Cheney is due to visit 11 countries in the region, including four neighbours of Iraq.

Mr Putin admitted there was concern about Iraq's possible production of chemical and biological weapons.

But he said the use of force against Iraq was "far from being the sole, universal or best solution".

"As it was with Taleban, the use of force should be justified," Mr Putin said.

"There should be universally accepted evidence and the issue should be decided together with the international community," he said.

"First of all we need to secure the return of UN monitors to that country," he said.

United Nations weapons inspectors went to Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.

But Iraq stopped cooperating with the inspections, which ended in December 1998 ahead of a US-British military strike on the country.

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Middle East
Powell 'rejects' Iraq talks
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
UN says Iraq ready for talks
17 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns Iraq over arms
18 Dec 01 | Middle East
US builds support against Iraq
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
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