PRAGUE, 9 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russia today called for an end to military operations in Iraq, saying forces in the U.S.-led coalition must refrain from using "indiscriminate force."
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement today warned of what it called "a looming humanitarian catastrophe."
The ministry said that innocent civilians have died in the past several days of fighting, some of them as a result of attacks on civilian buildings and religious establishments, particularly in the city of Al-Fallujah.
The statement called on the coalition to observe its commitments under international law barring "indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force."
The U.S. military has meanwhile suspended an offensive against insurgents in Al-Fallujah to allow for talks aimed at resolving six days of fighting that has killed up to 300 Iraqis.
U.S. civil administrator L. Paul Bremer today said U.S. forces initiated the suspension so that there can be talks between leaders of local Sunni Muslims, insurgents, and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. He said the suspension will also allow for the delivery of aid and attention to casualties.
Today marks one year since Baghdad's capture by U.S. forces toppling Saddam Hussein, with U.S. forces on high alert for possible guerrilla attacks planned to coincide with the anniversary. An explosion shook an international hotel in downtown Baghdad this afternoon, with early reports suggesting there were no casualties in the blast. Reuters reported that the explosion was from a mortar round that landed on a house near the Sheraton Hotel, which along with the Palestine Hotel houses many foreign nationals, including diplomats.