Russia urges US to halt 'disproportionate' use of force in Iraq
Russia has called on US-led forces in Iraq to refrain from "disproportionate" use of force and halt their latest offensive, in one of its toughest statements on Iraq to date.
"Russia calls for an end to military operations and restraint," said the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, one of the staunchest opponents of the US-led war.
The statement followed a week of violence in Iraq that has claimed the lives of dozens of US troops and hundreds of Iraqis.
The ministry said in a statement the US assault on towns in southern and central Iraq, particularly Fallujah, were causing a humanitarian disaster and the troops had to scale back.
It pointed out that the United Nations Security Council had approved a resolution in May 2003, just weeks after the United States launched the war, that not only lifted sanctions against Iraq but also forbade Western powers from exercising unreasonable force in their disputed campaign.
Russia expressed particular concern about the situation in Fallujah, which was encircled and bombed by US troops after four civilian contractors were killed and dragged through the streets by a mob.
"Hospitals, civilian buildings and religious establishments are being attacked," the Ministry said.
"Completely innocent people are being killed as a result, including the elderly, women and children.
"We have seen hundreds of people wounded."
Moscow said it was "imperative ... to halt the humanitarian catastrophe" afflicting some Iraq cities, and avoid an escalation of conflict.
The United States is due to hand over power to an Iraqi interim government by June 30, the deadline it established for the transfer of sovereignty.
But that deadline has been thrown into doubt by the escalating violence by radical Muslim Shiite insurgents.
The Shiites had previously stood on the sidelines of the conflict but are now forming a second front for the hard-pressed coalition forces, which are already battling with a Sunni Muslim revolt.
The Russian statement made no direct appeal to Sunni or Shiite militia to drop their weapons, another apparent sign of increasing frustration with Washington over how it is managing the occupation.
Russia appeared to put all the responsibility on Washington's shoulders, saying the United Nations - where it plays a key role - should not get involved in peace efforts until the United States had security under control.
"The question of putting the process of resolving (the situation in) Iraq under United Nations auspices can only be discussed when conditions are stable and not when open battles are raging in Iraq," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov told Interfax news agency.
Russia had argued until now for the United Nations to play a leading role in resolving the Iraqi conflict.