Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Russian relations repair
The U.S. ambassador to Russia believes that Washington and Moscow will repair their relations, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's denunciation of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said on a radio program last week that he had predicted that Russia's opposition to U.S. diplomatic efforts at the United Nations could damage relations but denied earlier news reports that he had threatened diplomatic retaliation.
"Yes, I did say there was a danger of damage to our relationship, but I made no specific threats. I made no linkage of any one issue to this crisis," he told Moscow Echo radio.
Mr. Vershbow said the United States and Russia have too many shared interests to allow the dispute over Iraq to cause permanent damage to their relationship.
"There is no doubt that we have a very serious disagreement here; but we've been able to overcome serious disagreements of the past years, and I think we will overcome this one," he said.
He predicted that President Bush will visit Moscow as planned in May.
"I have every confidence that President Bush will come as planned, and he very much looks forward to seeing his friend, President Putin," Mr. Vershbow said.
The ambassador defended Mr. Bush's decision to invade Iraq to remove the country's leader, Saddam Hussein, and establish a democratic government.
"Certainly doing this through military means is not the normal method, but in this case we believe that, as we eliminate the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we now have an opportunity to give the Iraqi people a chance for freedom and democracy. We intend to make good on that opportunity," he said.
Mr. Vershbow dismissed contentions that the United States is an illegal aggressor.
"We absolutely reject any notion that what we are doing is aggression," he said. "What we are doing is trying to uphold the authority of the U.N. resolutions and to eliminate a serious and immediate threat to the security of the region and the world."
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