Don't bomb Iraq, says Putin
By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor
07 September 2002
American efforts to win international support for military action against Iraq suffered a severe setback yesterday when President Vladimir Putin warned of his "deep doubts" about using force to topple Saddam Hussein.
As Tony Blair prepared to fly out to meet President George Bush at Camp David in Maryland today, the Russian President told the Prime Minister that such an attack posed a real risk of destabilising the whole of the Middle East and undermining the global coalition against terrorism.
The Russian leader made his concerns known during a phone call. Mr Blair also telephoned the French leader, Jacques Chirac, and met the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, at Downing Street yesterday.
The high-level contacts followed the bombing on Thursday by up to 100 British and US jets of a facility south-west of Baghdad after Iraqi forces attacked one of their patrols in a no-fly zone.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, underlined Britain's hawkish stance in a speech in Birmingham yesterday. "It would be wildly irresponsible to argue that patience with Iraq should be unlimited or that military action should not be an option," he said.
The former president Bill Clinton criticised the more hardline elements of the Bush administration, urging the White House to concentrate more on pursuing al-Qa'ida than on Iraq.
* Of 100 Labour backbench MPs surveyed for BBC Radio 4's Today, 88 said there were insufficient grounds to declare war.