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Moscow is condemning the prospect of U.S. military operations against Iraq, declaring that “it is vital to prevent U.S. actions that could spell misfortune for mankind,” according to official Russian sources.

“It is hard to predict how far America would be prepared to go with its arrogance,” Moscow stated, while rejecting President George W. Bush’s concept of an “axis of evil,” consisting of Iraq, Iran and North Korea – all of which are important Russian partners.

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

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had declared the “axis of evil” as a “Cold War vestige” and stated that the use of “unilateral force … could indeed make matters only worse.” The only solution, according to Ivanov, is an international settlement “only on the basis of strict compliance with the U.N. Security Council.”

Iraq, however, remains adamantly opposed to the readmittance of U.N. arms-controls experts, called for under previous U.N. agreements.

While debate continues among the U.S. and its allies over the role played by Iraq in international terrorism, Uday Saddam Hussein, the eldest son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who plays a significant role in his father’s regime, has made clear his assessment of the Sept. 11 attacks by praising those involved.

According to Uday, an individual known for his erratic and at times murderous behavior, the attacks were “daring operations” that have “restored respect for Arabs and Muslims.” Uday also praised the “heroic stand by six Arab brothers” who resisted U.S. and Afghan troops in a Kandahar hospital “for 45 days … using God-knows-what weapons.”

Uday’s remarks were made during a meeting with the chief of radio stations in the nation of Libya, Ali Kilani al-Qadhafi, carried in an Arabic language newspaper in London and reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

An attack against Iraq “is planned for either April or May,” according to Moscow’s speculation, and the U.S. strategy is thought to consist of three stages.

The first stage is a “campaign of intimidation” against Saddam’s regime, which Moscow sees as “already in progress.” Next, the U.S. will use “concentrated fire” against “vitally important civil and military targets.” The final stage will incite “the opposition’s uprising” with the help of “special agents” supported by “United States military aid.”

Although Moscow appears to predict that U.S. strategy in Iraq will follow a similar pattern as in Afghanistan, two opponents of the Iraqi regime warn that there are important differences between Iraq and the situation in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The two leaders represent different factions of the Kurdish ethnic group, which opposes the present Iraqi regime.

Mas’ud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal Talibani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, both demand to know who will replace Saddam before action of any kind is taken.

Talibani also rejected the possibility of a successful military coup against Saddam.

Any military unit movement requires multiple layers of approval, including permission from Iraqi security, intelligence and the ruling Baath Party. Talibani also stated that when military units deploy, they “move without ammunition.”

Talibani and Barzani’s remarks were carried by Al-Jazeera Satellite Television, and reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Substantial opposition to the present Iraqi regime does, however, exist, but there is also a limited window of opportunity to remove Hussein, according to the former director of Iraq’s atomic bomb development project, Khidhir Hamza, in a recent interview on Fox News.

Although Saddam’s Republican Guard “would stay loyal,” Hamza said, a large part of the military would support a change in government, if the opportunity arose.

Hamza was also confident that the opposition to Saddam could produce a democratic form of leadership for the nation.

Delay, however, is risky Hamza warned, citing a German intelligence estimate that Iraq could have as many as three atomic bombs by 2005. If Saddam acquired the bomb, removal of the Iraqi dictator would be considerably more “dangerous,” Hamza observed.

Related stories:


Does Saddam have nukes?


Moscow warns U.S. not to start new fights

Who will run Iraq after Saddam?

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