Date: Wed, 4 Feb 98 17:00:16 CST
From: Rich Cowan <>
Subject: Yeltsin links Iraq threats to Clinton budget proposals
Article: 27076

U.S. action on Iraq could cause world war, says Yeltsin

CNN, 4 February 1998, web posted at: 11:52 a.m. EST (1652 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN)—Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Wednesday issued the Kremlin's strongest criticism yet of U.S. threats to launch military strikes against Iraq, saying such actioncould trigger another world war.

“By his actions, (U.S. President Bill) Clinton might run into a world war,” a somber Yeltsin said at a televised meeting in the Russiancapital.

“He is behaving too loudly on this—too loudly”, Yeltsin said. And he added, “Well, now (some are saying) let us flood it all with planes and bombs. No, frankly speaking, it is not like Clinton at all.”

“One must be more careful in this world saturated with all sorts of weapons which are sometimes in terrorists' hands,” the Kremlin chief said, occasionally gripping his desktop and grimacing. “It's all very dangerous.”

Responding to Yeltsin's comments, a senior administration official in Washington told CNN, “If (Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein complies with the U.N. resolutions there will be no need for military force. And if the use of force was to become a necessity, it would be intended to reduce the chances that weapons of mass destruction would be used in the region.”

A few hours later, Yeltsin's spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky assailed international media, claiming some of them interpreted Yeltsin's warning as a threat by Moscow to retaliate for an attack on Iraq.

“One can hardly imagine a more ridiculous and absurd interpretation,”Yastrzhembsky told reporters.

Duma weighs in

Russia's opposition-dominated lower house of parliament, the State Duma, also stepped up pressure Wednesday, saying Moscow should consider going its own way in case of a U.S. strike against Iraq.

In a non-binding resolution, the chamber criticized the U.S. threats toward Iraq and urged Yeltsin “in the case of military force against Iraq unsanctioned by the U.N. Security Council to instruct Russia's foreign ministry to consider the expediency of continuing sanctions… and Russia's participation in them.”

Russian observers say that Yeltsin's attack on Clinton appears to be, at least in part, motivated by domestic policies, since the president needs members' support for his budget and other key policy issues.

“He had to use practically the same words in order to demonstrate that he was withthe Duma,” a Russia analyst said.

The Duma debate on the military strike issue was decidedly anti-American, and the head of the Communist faction in parliament, Gennady Zyuganov, who rarely agrees with Yeltsin, said the United States was “acting like an enraged, drunken cowboy.”

Clinton and Yeltsin spoke by telephone on Monday, but few details of their talks have been released.

Itar-Tass news agency quoted Yeltsin as telling a group of Russian regional leaders that he had clearly told Clinton he did not support the U.S. approach to the Iraq crisis.

Russia has undertaken a much-publicized mission to mediate in the Iraq crisis, and has urged the world community to find a diplomatic solution. Moscow helped broker a deal during a similar stand-off between Baghdad and the United Nations late last year.

Yeltsin, who has kept a low profile so far this year, has not publicly spoken about Iraq in recent days, leaving his spokesman and the Foreign Ministry to explain Russia's position.