Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lantos Expects Cooperation on Iraq

APU.S. Congressman Tom Lantos shaking hands with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov during talks on the Iraq crisis Wednesday.
U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Wednesday and said afterward that he is confident Russia will not stand in the way of U.S. military action against Iraq.

In his meeting with Ivanov, "I indicated to him that we fully expect our Russian friends to stand with us ... or minimally to create no obstacles," said Lantos, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives' International Affairs Committee.

"There isn't the slightest doubt in my mind that this will happen," he said.

Lantos has been harshly critical of France and Germany for their position on Iraq, and although President Vladimir Putin joined those two countries' presidents this month in issuing a statement calling for more inspections in Iraq, the congressman said Russia's position is fundamentally different.

"In the first place, we share the Russian view that clearly the preferred way of making Saddam Hussein get rid of his weapons of mass destruction, is a peaceful and diplomatic method, which we have been attempting for 12 years. We also believe our Russian friends are realists and they understand what the situation is as we speak," he told a news conference.

He also noted that Russia is deeply concerned about getting repayment of the $7 billion to $8 billion owed to it by Iraq and the likelihood of receiving the money "clearly is dramatically enhanced if Russia stands with us in this encounter ... there is very little doubt in my mind that Russian foreign-policy makers see the situation exactly as I do."

Lantos also rejected frequent speculation that the United States has toned down its criticism of the Russian military campaign in Chechnya -- where the army has been accused of wide human rights abuses including executions and torture -- in order to curry support for a military strike on Iraq.

"We certainly have no reluctance to call on anybody to stop human rights violations, but I think it's important for us to realize that we basically have a very positive, very cooperative and I think a very mutually beneficial partnership relationship with Russia," he said.

He said the United States has included three Chechen groups on its list of international terrorist organizations and plans to include other groups based in the North Caucasus in the near future, Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin press service said Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin discussed the Iraq situation in a telephone call Wednesday. The two leaders praised their countries' coordination of diplomatic action on Iraq, and expressed satisfaction over widespread support from foreign governments and public opinion for a political solution to the crisis.