The 70-Hour War: World Reaction - Sidelined Yeltsin warns the Allies

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The Independent Online
RELIEF THAT the bombardment of Iraq has ended was the common emotion across the international community yesterday, combined in many cases with an urgent desire to avoid a repeat attack.

Though the most vocal criticism of the American and British action came from opposition groups in Arab countries, Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President, issued an urgent warning against further use of military force against Iraq.

"Reason has finally prevailed," he said in a written statement. "It still remains to fully assess the negative political consequences the bombardment led to, not to speak of the victims among the civilian population and the significant damage to the Iraqi economy, which was already bled dry by the sanctions."

Mr Yeltsin's stance of the past few days is the strongest position he has taken against his putative political friends in London and Washington. "It is absolutely clear that the use of force only complicated the solution of the Iraqi problem," he said. "Nobody has the right to violate the UN charter," he added. The Russian President was not informed in advance of the attacks and despite his opposition has appeared helpless to stop them.

Other Western leaders, while avoiding criticism of the action, were careful to emphasise the need for peaceful progress in the impasse between Iraq and the UN. Germany and Japan urged Baghdad to start working with the UN again to avert the possibility of another military strike.

"The German government therefore calls on Iraq to resume its co-operation with the UN," Chancellor Gerhard Schroder said, a comment echoed by Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura.

Although none of the leaders of Iraq's Muslim neighbours made any public statements, officials in some pro-Western Gulf Arab countries expressed their reservations about allowing bombardment to be launched from their territory.

In Rabat, the Moroccan capital, there was a demonstration by around 100,000 people, with demonstrators denouncing the "assassin" Bill Clinton and his "pet dog" Tony Blair.

There were similar protests in the West Bank Jordan and Syria. In Damascus, over 1,000 angry demonstrators, mostly students, attacked the American and British embassies.

An British embassy statement said the Ambassador, Basil Eastwood, had formally complained to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa asking for adequate protection and compensation for the damage inflicted by the protesters.

Mr al-Sharaa reportedly offered a "full apology" and stressed that there will be suitable protection for all British buildings and nationals.