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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Ridicules 'War of Liberation'

APForeign Minister Igor Ivanov addressing the Federation Council on Wednesday. He called for a delay in ratifying the Moscow Treaty.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned the United States on Wednesday not to start a propaganda war against Russia and ridiculed Washington's efforts to portray the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq as a war of liberation.

As well as that outburst of criticism reminiscent of the Cold War, Ivanov called for the ratification of a U.S.-Russian arms reduction treaty to be delayed until the flare-up in tensions between the two countries over Iraq subsides.

"Maybe now is not the right moment psychologically to bring this document up for ratification," Ivanov said in a speech to the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

While calling for the postponement, Ivanov was careful to stress the importance of eventually ratifying the Moscow Treaty, which Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush signed last May. The agreement requires Russia and the United States to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds.

"This treaty answers Russia's interests. The Foreign Ministry believes that this document should be ratified, and we will present it for ratification," Ivanov said.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, put the ratification of the treaty on the backburner last week.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow conceded Wednesday that the war in Iraq has led to "serious tensions" in U.S.-Russian relations but promised: "We will do everything we can to minimize the damage," Interfax reported.

He said the Moscow Treaty was important for both the United States and Russia and that Russia would soon ratify it. The U.S. Congress ratified the treaty earlier this month.

The treaty needs to be ratified by both houses of parliament. Just last week pro-Kremlin lawmakers such as Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Federation Council's international affairs committee, were expressing hope that it would be ratified within days despite the tensions over Iraq.

Those hopes faded Wednesday as the more reserved Federation Council followed the Duma's lead and passed a resolution condemning the war.

After Ivanov's critical speech, senators even amended the resolution to include stronger language such as the word "aggression" -- despite a protest by Margelov that the word should be used only if the war was condemned by the UN Security Council.

In his speech, Ivanov reiterated Russia's position that by waging war without the UN Security Council's blessing, the U.S.-led coalition is "in violation of international law."

He also said the war has become a threat to international stability.

Ivanov then slammed the United States for growing civilian casualties in Iraq and mocked Bush's pre-war pledge that the day of liberation for the Iraqi people was coming.

"It is becoming clear that the attempts to present the military action against Iraq as a triumphant campaign for the liberation of the Iraqi people with minimal casualties and destruction are far from the reality," Ivanov said.

The foreign minister repeated the Kremlin's stance that the Iraq crisis should be returned to the UN Security Council and called for the United Nations to lead humanitarian relief efforts in Iraq. The Security Council began a debate Wednesday over the UN's humanitarian role in Iraq.

After condemning the war, Ivanov criticized the Bush administration for airing allegations that Russian companies had supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with defense equipment in violation of a UN arms embargo.

"We are seriously concerned about attempts by certain circles in the United States to drag Russia into an information war over Iraq by making unfounded allegations that Russian companies have supplied Iraq with some defense equipment," Ivanov said.

The Bush administration last week accused Russia of failing to stop sales to Iraq of night vision goggles, navigation jammers and anti-tank missiles by three Russian companies. A senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday confirmed a Sunday report in The Washington Post that identified two of the companies as KBP of Tula and Moscow's Aviakonversiya and said Aviakonversiya had personnel in Iraq during the first days of the war. Aviakonversiya and KBP deny the claims.

"We have very hard information that directly contradicts what has been said and we stand by that information," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.

He said the Bush administration lodged an official complaint in fall 2002. But he stressed that Washington only decided to go public with the accusations now because of its increasing frustration over Moscow's failure to stop the sales -- not because of Moscow's opposition to the war in Iraq.

"We got progressively more frustrated that the Russian side was not investigating the cases seriously enough. And so it was at that point that we decided to express a little of that discontent publicly," the diplomat said at a press briefing in Moscow.

"There are strong feelings about this, particularly in the military. The timing reflected the fact that we got further unsatisfactory replies at high levels at the end of last week," he said.

Bush complained about the sales during a telephone conversation with Putin on Monday. Putin denied that Russian companies might have breached UN sanctions and then tried to turn the tables by presenting Bush with "questions on similar problems that have not been answered yet," according to a Kremlin account of the phone call.

The Kremlin statement did not elaborate, but Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov hinted that the problems might include the alleged sale of nuclear equipment to Iran by Urenco, a British-Dutch consortium.

"We also have complaints against the United States," Rumyantsev told reporters Wednesday. "It is always criticizing us, but its close economic partners supply Iran with sensitive technology."

Urenco is thought to have supplied centrifuges to Iran that could be used to produce weapons-grade uranium.

Rumyantsev insisted, however, that the Iraq tensions have not hurt U.S.-Russian cooperation in nuclear security.

Rumyantsev is among a number of Russian officials who have criticized the war but expressed hope that ties with Washington will remain strong.

Sharp statements such as Ivanov's in the Federation Council on Wednesday are aimed at "the home front" rather than a reflection of the Kremlin's real policy toward the United States, the senior U.S. diplomat said.

"We also recognize that for the Russian leadership there is a need to project a position of principle to the domestic audience and to the international community. But at the same time we take encouragement from discussions in private conversations that show determination ... to try to manage to keep the larger relationship on course," the diplomat said.

A recent poll, meanwhile, shows a drastic rise in anti-U.S. sentiment over the war. Some 45 percent of those questioned said they sympathize with Iraq, and 55 percent voiced a negative attitude toward the United States.

Only 5 percent of 1,600 respondents in a nationwide poll completed earlier this week by VTsIOM said they sympathize with the United States. The poll had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

The figures exceed the previous peak in anti-U.S. feelings during NATO's 1999 airstrikes against the former Yugoslavia. At the time, the same polling agency found 53 percent of Russians had a negative view of the United States. Last summer, only 15 percent had a negative attitude toward the United States.