PARIS – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that U.S. military action against Iraq without U.N. consent would be a "grave error," and hinted that Russia might use its veto on the Security Council against any "unreasonable use of force."
Speaking through a translator on French television, Putin said he saw no need at present for Russia to use its veto as a permanent council member.
But asked if Russia would support France if it uses its veto, Putin said: "If today a proposition was made that we felt would lead to an unreasonable use of force, we would act with France or alone."
Putin, who was speaking in an interview on France's TF1 television, defended a proposal by France, Russia and Germany for strengthened U.N. weapons inspections, part of a diplomatic initiative aimed at disarming Saddam Hussein peacefully.
"This is not designed to create a bloc or an axis," the Russian president said, according to a translation provided by TF1. "We are trying to find a peaceful solution to a grave international crisis and, I repeat, we will be heard."
Without specifically mentioning the United States, he warned against any attempt to attack Iraq without passing through the United Nations.
"I am convinced that it would be a grave error to be drawn into unilateral action, outside of international law," he said.
If the United Nations does not authorize military action against Iraq, the United States reserves the right to take action along with a handful of key allies such as Britain. But a U.S. decision to flout the will of other key nations could severely strain the post-Cold War structure of global politics.