Thursday, May 01, 2003

PUTIN REBUFFS BLAIR

PATRICK WINTOUR, GUARDIAN - Tony Blair's first public attempt to heal the diplomatic wounds of the Iraq war suffered a humiliating rebuff yesterday when Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, refused to lift UN sanctions and mocked the possibility that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq. Mr Putin also clashed with Mr Blair by demanding UN weapons inspectors be allowed back into Iraq and challenged Mr Blair's vision of a new world strategic partnership, arguing it would be unacceptable for the US to dominate the international community. The public dressing down for Mr Blair came during a 63-minute press conference staged by the two men at Mr Putin's private residence outside Moscow. . .

He also derided Mr Blair's talk of a new world order, saying: "If the decision-making process in such a framework is democratic then that is something we could agree with, but if decisions are being made by just one member of the international community and all the others are required to support them that is something we could not find acceptable."

TIMES, UK - Speaking at the end of what was supposed to be a fence-mending meeting with Mr Blair in Moscow, Mr Putin mocked the coalition's failure to find any biological or nuclear weapons. He said UN oil sanctions should not be lifted until they came to light. Mr Putin reminded the grim-faced Prime Minister that the only reason he went to war was to eliminate the danger posed by Saddam's weapons program.

"Two weeks later they still have not been found," he told a press conference. "The question is, where is Saddam Hussein? Where are those weapons of mass destruction, if they were ever in existence? Is Saddam Hussein in a bunker sitting on cases containing weapons of mass destruction, preparing to blow the whole place up?" >>Full story...

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