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22 March 200411:43

TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW GIVEN BY RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEY LAVROV TO CHANNEL ONE OF RUSSIAN TELEVISION MOSCOW, MARCH 21, 2004

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Unofficial translation from Russian

Transcript of the Interview Given by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Channel One of Russian Television

Moscow, March 21, 2004

Anchor: Sergey Viktorovich, I would like to begin with the problem most acute today -- the situation in Kosovo. How can it resolve itself? What can and must Russia do in this situation?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The situation in Kosovo, which has become hot to the utmost, can resolve itself in one way only, namely through complete and comprehensive implementation of the Kosovo settlement plan, approved by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 1244. Under that resolution and the documents developed by the UN Security Council on its basis, the Kosovo-Albanian majority, the Kosovo-Albanian leaders who now constitute the provisional self-government authorities in the territory, are obligated to take concrete measures which have been spelled out. The objective of such measures is to ensure equal rights for all inhabitants of Kosovo regardless of their religious, ethnic, and national appurtenance, to ensure the freedom of movement for all minorities, the return of the temporarily displaced people in the territory, and there is an immense number of these in Serbia. It is only such an approach, ensuring security and equal rights for all Kosovo communities, that can resolve the Kosovo problem. The Kosovo-Albanian leaders by far not always comply with the requirements of the UN Security Council. Regrettably, some of our partners from the Western countries tried not to "pull them up" in time, proceeding from the idea that it is better not to irritate them so that then they could embark on the road of compliance with the UN Security Council resolution.

The recent developments in Kosovo's Metrovica confirm our old apprehensions that such connivance by the West and the desire of the Kosovo-Albanian leaders to rid the territory of other nationalities, is harmful and dangerous. Now Russia is demanding the return to the original foundations of the Kosovo settlement which were approved by consensus in the UN Security Council. Recently the UN Security Council held a meeting where we have seriously drawn attention to the current crisis, demanded that the UN Security Council urge the Kosovo-Albanian leaders to stop inciting and assume full responsibility for ending the violence and also urged the forces stationed in Kosovo under the NATO leadership to take additional measures to end violence and bloodshed. Such a UN Security Council decision was adopted at our initiative.

As regards the recent aspect -- the strengthening of the international contingent in Kosovo, this is already happening. Additional contingents are being transferred from Bosnia to neutralize the attempts to destabilize the situation. The situation is serious. We are alarmed at such a light attitude to it on the part of some of our partners. It would seem that the West, above all the Europeans, should be the first to feel anxiety over what is happening in Kosovo. If Kosovo turns into a territory which is another result of ethnic cleansing, which is already one of the main transit points of drug traffic to Europe, a center of organized crime, then Europe will suffer.

Question: Is the appeal to UN decisions possible, considering that when the United Nations Organization protested against the war in Iraq, the war began anyway? Will not this situation repeat itself in Kosovo?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: The United Nations has adopted a resolution instructing the UN international inspectors to verify the assertion that programs in the field of weapons of mass destruction have been preserved in Iraq. When these programs failed to be found and the US with Great Britain decided to use force in Iraq, they tried to get the support of the UN Security Council but it was denied to them. On the other hand, a resolution protesting against the war was not adopted for the simple reason that the US and Great Britain could use the right of veto at the UN Security Council and such a resolution would not have been adopted. But the UN did not approve that war. I remember the bitterness then felt by diplomats over the fact that early in the 21st century, which we all wanted to see peaceful and prosperous, a new war broke out. On the other hand, the attitudes of my colleagues in the UN circles also attested to the pride felt over the fact that the UN did not agree to approve an unnecessary, unjustified military action and thus kept its authority and prestige.

Question: What did you feel when you heard about the beginning of war in Iraq? Did you believe to the last moment that violence could still be avoided?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: As a human being, I hoped that violence could be avoided. As a diplomat and as Russia's representative at the United Nations, I was aware that Moscow was taking special steps and tried to find such solutions that would satisfy the USA and Great Britain and simultaneously enable all to see the existence or absence of the WMD in Iraq. This caused a no lesser anxiety to us than it did to the USA and Great Britain. Nobody wants, Russia included, that there be WMD in Iraq or another country.

Question: From the position of today, how justified was Russia's approach to the situation around Iraq?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We were aware that by that time the military machine had already gathered momentum and begun to spin. The group which was concentrated in the Persian Gulf area, became a self-reliant factor over that entire situation. At the same time we regarded it as our professional, moral duty to use every chance, slim though it might be, to try to stop the war.

Question: What is now happening in Iraq is not much reminiscent of resistance. Many say that all that is happening -- explosions and terrorist acts -- are actions of international terrorism. Do you agree with this? How can the USA get out of this blind alley?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: Of course any act aimed at intimidating innocent people, and still more at destroying them can be qualified as an act of terror. On the other hand, before Iraq was occupied, there were no terrorists in it. All assertions to the contrary have failed to be confirmed, but were rather refuted, including by US specialists. Now the question is how to get out of this situation. Nobody is interested in continuing to observe the deteriorating situation in Iraq, when people are dying, the infrastructure is being destroyed and the country is unable to organize a normal life, when people live in fear. We believe that the main task now is an early end to the occupation and restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, of the right of the Iraqi people to dispose of its political destiny and its resources. The question is how to do it.

Back in May 2003 the UN Security Council unanimously decided that the sovereignty of Iraq must be restored as soon as possible. At the same time the occupying powers, who have admitted to be such powers under international law, have established their administration, have disbanded the Iraqi policy and the army, believing that these structures cannot serve the new Iraq to be created on a democratic basis. They decided to maintain the security in Iraq by the forces of their contingents. After that the Americans themselves admitted that this was a hasty step and that without Iraqis the situation in the country cannot be settled in the area of security or in the area of the political structure. That is why methods of restoring sovereignty are now being sought.

In practical terms, the discussion is focussing on establishing structures that will have to assume sovereignty. If these are established by coalition authorities, they will hardly be accepted as the bearers of sovereignty by the Iraqi people and neighboring states. That is why the transfer of sovereignty should be done in a way that will be accepted by a group of people associated not with the occupying powers but with the Iraqi political forces. It is no coincidence that the coalition authorities themselves have applied to the United Nations for assistance in establishing such a structure. The special UN mission led by LakhdarBrahimi, special adviser to the UN Secretary General, visited Iraq, reported its conclusions to the effect that the best way would be an early election but that for technical reasons this cannot be held earlier than the end of this year.

It is desirable to find a way of restoring sovereignty as soon as possible. As a desirable date, mention is being made of early June this year. In these days the Lakhdar Brahimi mission, upon instruction of Kofi Annan, is again going to Iraq to establish contacts with the Iraqi political forces and to draft recommendations about the way of forming a mechanism which may be a legitimate bearer of sovereignty for the period till the holding of the election. Simultaneously, this UN mission will get down to preparing for the elections themselves.

Question: Can use be made of Russia's previous experience in Iraq, its previous influence?

Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have never got away from the question as to whether we will be prepared to help if the Iraqis want it. We have established good contacts with practically all representatives of Iraqi groups: with Shi'ites, Sunni, and Kurds. We will not impose our advice on anyone. Our assessment, our forecasts of the development of the situation in Iraq are confirmed every day. This indicates that we know that country, we can analyze and forecast the processes at work in it. When the United Nations at the request of the Iraqis assumes the central role in completing the process of political settlement -- and this will happen after the occupation is terminated -- I think that in that UN activity the Russians will be needed and they are bound to take part in it.

March 22, 2004

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