| Russian liberal MP backs regime change in Iraq,
slams Chechen referendum
The leader of the Russia's centre-right Yabloko party has backed
regime change in Iraq, but without the direct use of force. Speaking
in an interview with Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 19 March, Grigory
Yavlinsky said a large international contingent should be
amassed to bring political and military pressure to bear on Iraq,
but that action should stop short of a large-scale military operation.
In the same interview, the Yabloko leader also cast doubts on
the value of the Chechen referendum, arguing that only a peace
conference chaired by the Russian President could alter the situation
in the republic.
Regime change in Iraq
Yavlinsky prefaced his comments on the impending war in Iraq
by stressing the need for Russia to come out unequivocally against
the regime in Baghdad. "It is extremely important for Russia,
if it wants to be called a democratic country, to provide a correct
assessment of the regime in Baghdad and developments there,"
He went on to voice his support for regime change. "Yabloko
thinks that it is vital to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein,"
said the party leader. "It thinks that it is in Russia's
interests to totally change the Baghdad regime."
He then explained how this might be achieved: "Yabloko thinks
that military means should be used to achieve this aim,. Yabloko
thinks that an enormous, let me stree, an extremely significant
international military contingent should be amassed around Iraq
and in this region, for an extended period, for the whole transitional
period. The task of this contingent would be to bring direct and
extremely significant military and political pressure to bear
with the aim of disarming and altering the nature of the regime
in Baghdad. The contingent would also prevent any civil war that
could eruptin Iraq after the change of regime in Baghdad,"
Yavlinsky told listeners.
He stressed, though, that this should be done through "a
cold war, and without the start of large-scale military operations".
In particular, "Russia should not send a single soldier to
the war... We should not get involved in any military operations",
The Yabloko leader then went on to look at the wider problem
of the so-called rogue states and other undemocratic regimes.
"Iraq is clearly not the last country of this type. It is
necessary to understand - first there was an operation in Afghanistan,
and now Iraq. And what then? North Korea, and then, well, let's
say, Iran, then half of the CIS, then Syria, then Libya. Then
we have friendly totalitarian regimes," Yavlinsky commented.
"It is necessary to find a common solution, as this [Iraq]
is not the last place in the world where this problem will have
to resolved. And here Russia could play a very important role,"
Asked if he agreed with the opinion of Russian Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov that Iraq is not a threat, Yavlinskiy said: "No,
this statement by Ivanov, in my view, does not correspondent with
reality. Firstly it does not comply with the facts, as Iraq has
bacteriological and chemical weapons... You also have to remember
that Baghdad finances suicide bombers. These suicide bombers operate
in various places. Even Russia has confronted this kind of phenomenon.
The sponsoring of suicide bombers and the development of this
type of terrorism pose a very serious threat," added Yavlinsky.
The interview then moved on to the constitutional referendum
to be held in Chechnya on 23 March. Here Yavlinsky sounded a pessimistic
note. "I think that the situation will simply stay as it
is. And I think that, despite everything, it will be necessary
to engage in a realistic and genuine political process to settle
the Chechen problem," he remarked.
He then considered further the possibility of a long-term solution
to the Chechen conflict. "We think that it is absolutely
vital to hold a peace conference on the situation in Chechnya.
What's more, we believe that a conference on peace in Chechnya
should be held in Moscow. We believe that such a conference should
be chaired by the President of Russia. This is crucial,"
stressed Yavlinsky, adding that the conference should be attended
by "all sides in the conflict... except war criminals".