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Russia: Yeltsin Says U.S. Ignoring U.N. Over Iraq

Moscow, 5 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin today endorses earlier Russian government statements condemning U.S. airstrikes against Iraq, a Yeltsin spokesman said today.

"These actions could be seen as an attempt by Washington to take on the role of unilateral referee, ignoring the U.N.," the spokesman was quoted by Interfax as saying. The U.S. attacks create "a dangerous precedent in international politics," he said.

Earlier today, Russia's deputy foreign minister Vasily Sidorov warned that Russia will veto a British-backed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Iraq if it was presented in its present form.

Sidorov said the resolution was an attempt to give a legal basis to the recent U.S. strikes in southern Iraq. The United States says the strikes are in retaliation for an Iraqi incursion into an internationally protected Kurdish area in northern Iraq.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the group forced from the northern city of Arbil by Iraqi forces over the weekend, says Iraqi troops are continuing to attack southeast of the city. However, United Nations guards and international relief workers who also reported fighting in the area, say it involves the PUK and the rival Kurdistan Democratic Party. They say nearby Iraqi troops did not intervene.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department says it continues to discuss actions in Iraq with the Russian government.

State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said today that the United States is trying to answer questions from the Russians and explain its rationale for extending a "no-fly" zone from the 32nd parallel to the 33rd parallel just south of Baghdad.

Davies said the United States is using its authority as a member of the international coalition that enforces a United Nations resolution establishing the "no-fly" zone in 1991.

"The extension is simply an extension of the "no-fly" zone that we ourselves set up," he said.

Davies made the statement in response to a reporter's question about continued Russian criticism of the U.S. action.