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    RUSSIA PROMISES HELP TO IRAQ

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political analyst Marianna Belenkaya)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin is to sign a decree to send humanitarian assistance to Iraq, diplomatic sources have told RIA Novosti.

    "Moscow is concerned over the situation in Iraq, the trouble in which peaceful Iraqis living in US-besieged Falluja have found themselves, and the disproportionate use of force by the occupation troops," sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry told RIA Novosti.

    Russia will not abandon the Iraqi people to their misfortunes. In this sense, it does not matter who rules Iraq - Saddam Hussein or the Americans. Moscow attaches importance to the observance of international law and is concerned about the people suffering from the military action.

    What can be done in the conditions of the Iraqis' on-going resistance to the occupation forces? Russia's position remains unchanged: "Iraq's sovereignty should be restored as soon as possible, the authority should be transferred to national structures, and the UN should lead the political settlement in Iraq. The UN should be provided with real authority, and not just serve as an umbrella covering US policy in Iraq." Unfortunately, "the Americans [so far] see the role of this international organisation as this", the diplomatic sources said.

    How much time and how many victims do the Americans need before they begin listening to the international community? Indeed, the current developments in Iraq have hardly come as a surprise.

    A year ago, Russia, as well as a series of European and Arab nations, warned the United States that the Iraq invasion could have disastrous consequences for the country, the entire region, and the international community. These detailed forecasts have come true, as we see today. But the United States was determined to invade Iraq. Intoxicated with their quick and easy victory, the Americans decided they had done the right thing. As a result, Washington refused to listen to Russian and other experts' post-war recommendations and made many new mistakes. Iraq could have had its sovereignty restored last spring or summer, shortly after May 1 - the official date when hostilities were declared to have come to an end. It was at this moment that the UN could have become involved in Iraq's political and economic revival. However, it took an entire year to finish heated debates in the UN and distribute contracts for Iraq's restoration. Now nobody needs these contracts because it is impossible to work in Iraq until the situation returns to normal, which is still a distant prospect.

    But the most dreadful thing is that Iraq has turned into another bridgehead for international terrorist organisations, which seldom miss the chance to take advantage of the situation. Not only the Americans, but also their allies in the Iraq war have fallen into their trap. International terrorists have already managed to replace the Spanish government, and now it is the turn of the United States, however strange this might sound. The hostage taking of Japanese citizens in Iraq might lead to a certain crisis in Japan. The list could be continued.

    Hasan Nasrallah, leader of the Hezbollah extremist group based in Lebanon, said recently, "We understand that we cannot force foreign troops out of Iraq, but we can remove President Bush from the White House."

    In this situation, nations that did not support the USA could also fell victim to the threat. Extremists have already acquired the unique experience of political blackmailing in Iraq, which they can apply in relation to other countries and regions. The international community now should spare no effort to conceal its weak points.

    As for Iraq, the only opportunity to stabilise the situation here is for Washington to signal its willingness to listen to the international community's recommendations and to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis as soon as possible, perhaps, even ahead of schedule. Officially, authority is to be handed over to the Iraqis on June 30.

    However, now is not the time to criticise the United States. "We understand that the situation in Iraq is so dangerous that we must act together to deal with it, while mistakes can be analysed afterwards," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov, who is currently on a visit to India. But does the United States understand this? Or will it again act under the illusion of its own might without heeding the voice of reason?

    Whatever the answer may be to these questions, Moscow is always ready to provide realistic assistance to find a solution to this most serious crisis.

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