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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Primakov Blast U.S. Over Air Strikes

BERNE, Switzerland -- Russia hit out at the United States on Tuesday over its air strikes against Iraq, suggesting they were launched to help President Bill Clinton win the November presidential elections.

Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told a news conference in the Swiss capital the attacks, "cannot be supported by anyone at all, except those who put domestic politics, including pre-electoral questions, above all else."

In Moscow, the Russian government said the strikes were unacceptable and demanded a halt to all military action against Iraq, according to a statement quoted by Itar-Tass.

"The government of the Russian Federation sees the American military operation as an inappropriate and unacceptable reaction to the latest events in northern Iraq," the statement said.

"Russia insists that all military actions in Iraq threatening its sovereignty ... are stopped."

In Berne, Primakov warned that the U.S. raids, launched on southern Iraq earlier in the day in response to Iraqi military action in Kurdish areas in the north of the country, could heighten tension right across the Middle East.

"I hope this action will not be repeated and that good sense will prevail," he declared.

The comments by Primakov, a long-time specialist on the region, were the first on the U.S. strikes from a top Moscow official.

On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, Primakov went to Baghdad to try to convince Saddam to pull his troops out of Kuwait, which Iraq had seized in a lightning strike in August 1990.

Russia has generally taken a softer line on Iraq than the United States since the end of the Gulf conflict, and has been pushing Washington and its West European allies to lift the postwar sanctions against Baghdad.

Primakov made his remarks after Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti told the news conference that during talks earlier the two had agreed world problems and the Iraq issue in particular should be resolved by political means.

"I agree that we need to exclude force in international affairs," declared the Russian Foreign Minister -- who, as a commentator for the Communist Party newspaper Pravda in Soviet days, was a bitter critic of Washington's policies.

"The world is increasingly convinced that this is not the way to solve problems, especially the sort that exist in the north of Iraq," he said.

The Russian foreign minister -- speaking as U.S. President Clinton defended the military strikes in a televised speech -- said that in the long term, the U.S. action could have serious, negative results across the whole region.

"Whether they want it or not, such actions can only encourage separatism in the north of Iraq among the Kurds, which no one wants.

"This would not suit anyone and could destabilize the situation in the region," Primakov said.

"It could also make solution of the Middle East problem between Israel and the Arabs more difficult and lead to other negative results."

But asked for his views on the general world situation with the disappearance of the Soviet Union as one of the two former superpowers, he took a less trenchant line toward Washington.

Primakov said it would be unacceptable if one power tried to dictate its views and policies to the rest of the world. "But even the current U.S. administration does not share the view that the United States should dominate the world," he said.

In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry source quoted by Interfax said Russia was watching events in Iraq -- with which it had close relations until the last years of Soviet rule -- with growing concern.