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“Russia is vehemently opposed” to a U.S. attack on Iraq, and President George W. Bush’s demand that Iraq allow the re-entry of U.N. weapons inspectors “is used as a pretext” to justify an attack on Iraq, according to official Russian sources.

Furthermore, “Moscow is convinced that Washington has no proof of Iraq’s connection with the events of September 11 … or Iraq’s involvement in terrorism,” while any assault on Iraq would split the anti-terrorism coalition, Moscow stated.

The statements were reported by the Voice of Russia World Service, the official broadcasting service of the Russian government.

Moscow’s strong objections arise from Russia’s decades-long ties with Baghdad.

“For a number of historical, geographical, military, political and economic reasons, Moscow is interested in good relations with Baghdad,” an earlier Voice of Russia broadcast declared.

In fact, relations between Russia and Iraq are not merely “good,” they are quite amicable and growing steadily closer.

The official government broadcast acknowledged Washington’s displeasure over Russia’s close ties with a nation the U.S. considers a primary sponsor of terrorism.

“To put it mildly, Washington does not always like it,” the broadcast said.

Iraq has denied any complicity in the Sept. 11 attacks, and denies possessing weapons of mass destruction. To bolster this position, the Russian government broadcast cited the comments of Iraq’s ambassador to Russia, Dr. Muzher al Doori, who in mid-October offered his nation’s “deep condolences,” and described the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the U.S. as a “human tragedy.”

Despite the official statement’s contention that the November Bush-Putin meeting in the U.S. would, in the future, “make it possible to solve very complicated problems,” a major difference persists in the way Washington and Moscow assess Iraq’s complicity in terrorism.

Russia remains adamant in its support of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In April 2001, during a visit of a high-ranking delegation to Moscow, the Russian government described Iraq as its “long-term partner” and stated its intention to establish a “high level of cooperation” with Iraq.

The events of Sept. 11 have not cooled Moscow’s ardor for Baghdad. In fact, in late November Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov stated Russia wants to “develop and deepen” economic and political ties with Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is considering its military options against Baghdad. Any U.S. attack on Iraq, however, follows Baghdad’s own diplomatic offensive and bid for respectability.

As early as October 2000, in an attempt to ease sanctions levied against Saddam’s regime, a high-ranking Iraqi delegation visited various Western European capitals to promote “a better understanding … of the Iraqi situation,” according to Deutsche Welle, the official broadcasting service of the German government.

While Western governments reacted coolly to the Iraqi overtures, Baghdad found greater success closer to home, as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iran are currently examining areas of cooperation with their regional neighbor.

Nevertheless, the regime of Saddam Hussein is still known primarily for its despotism and cruelty, and reports continue to surface regarding Iraq’s increasing potential to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

Torture, murder and rape continue to be used against those perceived as opposing Saddam Hussein’s regime, while the level of paranoia and wanton viciousness reaches remarkable proportions.

According to a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report, some of Saddam Hussein’s personal bodyguards accompany Iraqi governmental delegations as they travel outside of Iraq. The guards are instructed to report on the movements of the delegation members and provide details of all meetings in which the delegates participate.

The use of bodyguards to accompany Iraqi officials may have resulted from the refusal in November of the former Iraqi ambassador to Austria, Faris Naema, to return home at the request of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. He has since spoken out against Saddam’s regime.

While the Iraqi government is known for its violence against its opponents, one of Saddam’s sons is reported to have gotten away with a murder committed in public — against a close relative of one of the regime’s top officials.

In a fit of jealous rage, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday, shot and killed the nephew of one of his father’s most trusted lieutenants on a busy street in Baghdad, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The murder victim was about to marry Uday’s former wife.

While Saddam’s regime is known for its violence — both official and unofficial — the opposition remains divided and open to infiltration from Iraqi counterintelligence.

One opposition group, however, recently claimed that it attacked a government building in Baghdad with several mortar shells, and promised more strikes in the future.

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