INTERNATIONAL

Putin rules out sending troops

MOSCOW SEPT. 21. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has ruled out sending Russian troops to Iraq and called for an expanded role for the United Nations in Iraqi settlement.

"In a practical sense, the question of sending troops to Iraq is not on the agenda, and we are not even considering this option," Mr. Putin was quoted as saying.

Speaking to American media ahead of his summit with the U.S. President, George W. Bush, in Camp David later this week, Mr. Putin said granting the U.N. an effective role in Iraq was Moscow's condition for backing the new U.S.-proposed Security Council resolution.

"Russia is ready to support a resolution that will give the U.N. a fundamentally different role in the future settlement in Iraq," the Russian leader said. "The U.N. should play a real, not decorative role in rebuilding Iraq."

Mr. Putin also called for formulating "a clear-cut mandate for multinational force, its mission, time-frame, responsibility and accountability to the U.N." As long as these conditions are met, "it doesn't matter who is at the head of the operation; it could be the American military," Mr. Putin said.

He said he still believed the U.S.-led war in Iraq was a mistake. "The situation that is developing in Iraq is the best confirmation that Russia was right," Mr. Putin said pointing to the appearance of Islamist extremists who had never been there before.

"I would not be surprised if militants from Chechnya or Afghanistan turn up there. It is a terrorist international, which is spreading across the region."

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