Putin Calls War Against Iraq the Most Serious Crisis Since Cold War

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday called the U.S.-led war against Iraq the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War and warned it threatened global stability.

The war is "in danger of rocking the foundations of global stability and international law," Putin said during a meeting with Russian lawmakers, segments of which were aired on Russian television.

He said the "only correct solution to the Iraqi problem is the immediate end to military activity in Iraq and resumption of a political settlement in the U.N. Security Council."

The Kremlin has been strongly critical of the U.S.-led war but insists its disagreement with Washington will not damage relations.

"The partnership character of relations with America will give us a basis for continuing our open dialogue," Putin said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russian officials have expressed concern that Russian interests and companies, which have signed numerous contracts to develop Iraq's oil industry, will be pushed out by American companies in the war's aftermath. Baghdad also owes Russia about $8.5 billion in Soviet-era debt.

Russia "has never made its position on Iraq directly dependent on economic factors or economic advantages," Putin was quoted by Interfax as saying. "The economy is an important part of politics but if we make a mistake in the political assessment of the situation, we will in the end lose out also in the economic."

Putin urged lawmakers to act pragmatically and "leave emotions on the side" when dealing with the crisis.