Moscow, 16 November 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian officials today warned that the Iraq crisis is far from over, despite a climbdown by Baghdad that averted the threat of U.S. military strikes over the weekend. Russia's top Middle East expert, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk, said that although the attack was averted, there is "no special reason to relax." He added that "tension has not been fully removed" and he put the onus on Iraq for ensuring that the crisis does not recur.
He was speaking in Moscow in an interview with Interfax news agency.
At the same time, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, in Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said no progress can be made unless UN sanctions on Iraq are lifted.
Meanwhile, more details are emerging about how close Iraq came to suffering airstrikes on Saturday. U.S. warplanes were already en route to bomb Iraq when the Iraqi government said it would accept renewed weapons inspections.
And British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman says that Britain sent a private warning to Iraq last Thursday that it would carry out air strikes unless Baghdad backed down and complied with UN resolutions.