Rice Flies In to Soothe Strained Ties

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
Rice Flies In to Soothe Strained Ties
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 1:06pm
U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow on Sunday for talks to soothe relations strained by differences over the Iraq war.

Rice was scheduled to meet with a number of top Russian officials, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said. She was to leave Monday, said the spokesman, who could not offer specifics on her agenda.

Interfax, citing unnamed sources, reported that Rice would meet with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo.

"We are committed to our long-term strategic partnership with Russia," the embassy spokesman said. "We've been through some difficult times, and differences over Iraq have strained the relationship."

The day before, President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with U.S. President George W. Bush. "Despite well-known differences on the Iraq crisis, the importance of pursuing an intense political dialogue between the two countries was stressed in order to find solutions in the interests of the international community," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The talks Saturday were initiated by Washington.

Putin spoke to Bush after urging the State Duma to set aside the differences over Iraq and ratify the Moscow Treaty on cutting strategic nuclear arsenals.

"Our position and that of the United States on the Iraqi problem do not coincide, we have different approaches and that, of course, creates a rather unfavorable background for further work on ratification of this agreement," Putin told reporters. "But it is in the interests of Russia to see this document ratified."

The Moscow Treaty, signed by Putin and Bush last year, provides for each side's arsenal to be cut by two-thirds.

The U.S. Senate ratified the pact last month, days before military action got under way in Iraq. But members of the Duma put off a vote on ratification.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, generally more vocal than Putin in his criticism of U.S. policy, said last week that the time was not favorable for seeking the State Duma's approval.

The Kremlin said Putin had also spoken by phone to French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard SchrÚder.

Putin and SchrÚder are to meet at the end of this week in St. Petersburg.

On Friday, Putin discussed the Iraqi crisis by telephone with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the Kremlin said.

Meeting Friday in Paris, Ivanov and his French and German counterparts renewed demands that the United Nations play a major role in postwar Iraq.

But France's foreign minister called for pragmatism, too, saying U.S.-led forces are best placed to secure the country when the shooting stops.

The foreign ministers insisted that international unity is indispensable in dealing with postwar Iraq. (Reuters, AP)


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 1:47pm
Another matter to be discussed. I surprised the article didn't mention it.

Russian envoys 'caught in crossfire'.

>"They came within 50-70 metres of us; we came out of our cars and started waving white cloths to... ask for medical help but no-one stopped."<




iVillage Member
Registered: 03-23-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 3:12pm
Here's the article from the Moscow Times...it wasn't mentioned in the previous article because that one had been written before this 'became news'.

Diplomats' Convoy Comes Under Fire


By Andrei Zolotov Jr.

Staff Writer

A convoy carrying Russia's ambassador to Iraq and about two dozen Russian diplomats and journalists came under heavy fire Sunday while evacuating from Baghdad. Five diplomats were wounded, but none of their lives was said to be in danger.

The convoy seems to have been caught in crossfire, but the Russian government has not yet indicated who it believes is responsible. The U.S. and Iraqi ambassadors were called into the Foreign Ministry.

Rossia television's military correspondent Alexander Minakov, who was in the convoy, said it was passing heavily armed Iraqi positions just outside Baghdad when the Iraqis came under fire. The forces who started the firefight were not visible, but Minakov said he believes they were American troops.

"A shell hit a tank 150 meters away from us and it exploded," Minakov said in an audio report on the 8 p.m. news. "Shells began exploding 50 and 70 meters from us. And then a storm of automatic fire began. Iraqi troops of course began firing back. We practically found ourselves in the crossfire."

Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko was in the first car, which had a Russian flag on it. "He was really lucky," Minakov said, speaking by telephone from the Iraqi-Jordanian border. "The bullet went through the windshield and right in between him and his driver."

Channel One's Andrei Murtazin also said he believed it was U.S.-led troops who had opened fire on their convoy, but he put the blame on the Iraqi forces.

"I don't understand how Iraqi troops whose responsibility it was to provide a corridor could let us stray into the line of fire from coalition troops," he said, speaking on the 11 p.m. news from a studio in Damascus.

The U.S. Central Command in Qatar issued a statement saying initial reports indicated that the shooting took place in Iraqi-controlled territory and that no coalition forces were in the area, but the inquiry would continue.

According to CNN, which has a reporter embedded with U.S. troops near Baghdad, U.S. Army officials said coalition troops did not fire on the convoy and that the shots probably came from the Iraqi paramilitary group Fedayeen Saddam.

U.S. Marine Corps General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Associated Press the Russian convoy had safely passed coalition ground troops before it was attacked "out in more open territory" west of Baghdad. "Somewhere after they got out past our main forces they were attacked. We don't know by whom or by how many," Pace said.

Five diplomats among the 23 Russians in the convoy were wounded, but the injuries were not life threatening, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko.

Minakov said one embassy employee received a serious stomach wound and was operated on by Iraqi doctors. Two others were less badly wounded: one had bullets pass through his arm and leg; the other had surface wounds on his head and neck. Another two diplomats received wounds that did not require serious medical treatment, he said.

The only journalist who was hurt was a sound engineer for Channel One, who had his face and hands scratched by shattered glass.

The convoy comprised eight vehicles, six carrying diplomats and two carrying television crews from Rossia, Channel One and TV Center, Minakov said. "The NTV crew had decided to stay in the city, and probably did the right thing," he said.

Minakov said the bullet holes in his jeep were of a small caliber, possibly from a U.S.-made M-16. Rossia reported, citing RIA Novosti, that two bullets taken from the diplomat's abdomen were M-16 bullets.

"It was a visibly nonmilitary convoy," Minakov said. "It is hard to understand why this firing took place when our convoy was going through Iraqi positions."

The Foreign Ministry urgently called in the U.S. and Iraqi ambassadors and asked them to determine who was responsible for the attack and to guarantee the safety of Russian citizens in Iraq.

Leaving the ministry, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said his government was investigating and trying to gather information from allied commanders in the area, but did not know who fired on the Russians.

"We are obviously very concerned about those who have been wounded," he said, The AP reported.

Vershbow confirmed the United States had been aware of the planned evacuation in advance and said the U.S. side would do its best to expedite the evacuation. "Iraqi forces are active and there are many military exchanges going on, but we will do as much as we can to facilitate their safe departure," he said.

Iraqi Ambassador Abbas Khalaf declined to comment Sunday. "All commentary will come tomorrow," Interfax quoted him as saying.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and "expressed deep regret in connection with the incident," the ministry said.

Minakov said the convoy left the embassy in Baghdad at about 11:30 a.m. and was traveling west, headed toward the Syrian border, when it came under fire just on the outskirts of Baghdad.

About 30 minutes later, after the firing had stopped and they had managed to bandage the diplomats' wounds, they saw a large convoy of U.S. military vehicles passing by about 50 to 70 meters away, he said.

"We came out and started to wave white rags in order to get their attention and maybe have their medics help our guys, because they were still bleeding, but they did not stop," Minakov said.

After finding places in the other vehicles for passengers from one vehicle that had to be abandoned, the convoy traveled to Fallujah, a town about 50 kilometers west of Baghdad, where the nearest Iraqi hospital was located.

Ambassador Titorenko decided that the embassy part of the convoy should spend the night there and make further travel plans based on the condition of the most seriously wounded diplomat, Minakov said.

The journalists, however, received Titorenko's permission to continue on to Jordan or Syria.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 04-07-2003 - 9:04pm
You mean there were diplomats that were still in B.?


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2000
Tue, 04-08-2003 - 8:07am
I thought the same thing.