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Russia: Putin Says He Is Against Removing Hussein From Power

Paris, 9 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- In an interview broadcast today, President Vladimir Putin says Russia does not support the U.S. goal of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power and believes a unilateral U.S. military strike on Iraq would be a "big mistake." Putin said he does not want to "settle any score with Hussein," in the interview with France 3 television, which was taped on Friday in Moscow ahead of his visit to Paris tomorrow.

He said the United Nations Charter does not include any steps that would allow outsiders to change the regime in a country "whether we like it or not."

Putin said unilateral action would be a big mistake but the most serious consequence would be the threat of a division within the UN Security Council and the end of the coalition against terrorism.

That could prompt the breaking-up of Iraq, create further complications for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the radicalization of the Muslim world with unforseen consequences for Arab countries that embrace democratic values, as well as the risk of a fresh wave of terrorist attacks.