Putin Warns US Not to Feel Infallible on Iraq

MOSCOW (AFP)–Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States on Thursday not to slip into an empire-like mentality of feeling infallible on Iraq.

Asked in a nationally televised phone-in program if he thought Iraq could become a "second Vietnam" for Washington–he said great powers and empires had often given way to "feelings of invincibility–feelings of greatness–feelings of infallibility."

"I hope–I very much hope–that this will not happen to our American partners," said Putin–who opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq in March.

He was scheduled to meet Baker later in the day to hear US proposals for cutting the foreign debt of post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Russia is owed some $8 billion by Baghdad–much of it run up for arms sales during Saddam’s decades in power. Moscow is keen to protect its interests in Iraq–especially contracts signed for the development of oil fields there.

Putin pledged to continue supporting Washington in the fight against terrorism. "We have no interest in any defeat of the United States in their fight against terrorism because we are their partners in the fight against terrorism," he said.

Georgia’s integrity: Vladimir Putin said that Russia’supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and is ready to act as a guarantor in Tbilisi’s conflict with its separatist republics. "We are for keeping Georgia’s territorial integrity," Putin said in his annual nationally-televised question-and-answer session with Russia’s.

"We will support it and hope that all the problems in relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be solved–but will be solved in a way so that the interests of people who live on these territories will not suffer," he said.

Russia’supported Georgia’s two separatists republics–Abkhazia and South Ossetia–in their armed conflicts with Tbilisi in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union fell apart. The pair both declared independence after the civil wars.

"You want Russia to rupture relations with our neighbors for centuries? You negotiate among yourselves on terms agreeable to everyone and we will act in the role of guarantor."

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