Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 126

Russia expressed its concern yesterday over an incident earlier in the day in which a U.S. F-16 warplane fired a missile at an Iraqi anti-aircraft site. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said it was necessary to localize the incident and to ensure that tensions in the region do not escalate as a result of it. He added that Moscow had only incomplete information on the incident. Russian authorities, he said, are seeking additional details from both Baghdad and Washington. (AP, Russian agencies, June 30)

U.S. political and military leaders said yesterday that the U.S. warplane had fired on the Iraqi site after Iraqi radar locked onto a British plane that was part of a group of aircraft carrying out a routine mission over Iraq’s no-fly zone. Authorities in Baghdad denied that Iraqi troops had targeted any of the British or U.S. planes. They described the missile attack as “an aggression and unjustifiable action” that might lead to a new all-out assault against Iraq. (Reuter, June 30)

Moscow is Iraq’s foremost supporter on the UN Security Council and has led efforts to win the lifting of sanctions on Baghdad. Only a day earlier, on June 29, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov had met in Moscow with a top Iraqi diplomat. Primakov reportedly told him that Russia intended to stay “actively involved” in UN deliberations aimed at overcoming the crisis in Iraq. The two men reportedly also discussed ways to improve the effectiveness of operations by UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. (Russian agencies, June 30) That has been a standard formulation used by Baghdad and Moscow to imply that weapons inspectors need to be more respectful of Iraq. It has also been used to indicate the desire of Baghdad and Moscow to lessen the influence of the Washington and London in the weapons inspection efforts.