MOSCOW (AP) — In a blunt warning to President Clinton, Boris Yeltsin declared Wednesday that America might provoke global warfare if it follows through on threatened attacks on Iraq.
“One must be careful in a world that is saturated with all kinds of weapons, some of them in the hands of terrorists,” Yeltsin said in the Kremlin. “By his actions, Clinton might run into a world war.”
A few hours later, presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky assailed foreign media, claiming some of them interpreted Yeltsin’s warning as a threat by Moscow to retaliate for an attack on Iraq.
The United States and Russia have repeatedly disagreed about the possible use of force to make Iraq comply with U.N. weapons inspections. But both Washington and Moscow generally try to avoid direct criticism of each other.
Russia — one of Iraq’s strongest sympathizers on the U.N. Security Council — is strongly opposed to the threatened U.S. attack on Iraq, although Yeltsin’s comments were surprising in their frankness.
Yeltsin said the latest American moves were “quite unlike Clinton” and stressed that Russia has done its utmost to avert a military clash.
“One must be accurate in a world that is saturated with all kinds of weapons,” Yeltsin said in the Kremlin. “One should not (say) immediately that we shower (Iraq) with airplanes and bombs.”
Russia’s position is supported by other nations, including some U.N. Security Council members, Yeltsin said.
Russia has long political and economic ties to Iraq, and successfully served as an intermediary last November in a similar standoff between Saddam and the United Nations.