The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Putin pours oil into Bush Iraq fire

Moscow, Oct. 18 (Agencies): Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested today that the military campaign in Iraq was a “pointless” battle against the Iraqi people, aimed in part at seizing the country’s oil reserves.

The latest jab at Washington was delivered while the President was speaking during his annual televised question-and-answer session.

“I believe one of the goals is to establish control of the country’s oil reserves,” he said, referring to US President George W. Bush’s campaign in Iraq.

Putin called for a powerful Parliament and unchanged policies after he leaves the Kremlin in remarks hinting he may go on to use a power base in the House to dominate the country.

The President renewed his warning against US efforts to put elements of a missile defence system in Eastern Europe. He said US officials were genuinely considering Russian proposals to resolve the dispute.

However, he said: “If a decision is made without taking Russia’s opinion into account, then we will certainly take ste-ps in response, to ensure the security of Russian citizens”.

The session consisted of people from around the vast country asking Putin questions.

A mechanic from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk asked Putin about comments he said were made some years ago by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who suggested that Siberia had too many natural resources to belong to one country.

“I know that some politicians play with such ideas in their heads,” he said, but dismissed the notion as “political erotica that ... hardly leads to a positive result”.

The session was being closely watched for indications of Putin’s intentions after his second term as President ends next year. Putin has suggested he would consider becoming Prime Minister.

“In 2007 and 2008 we have parliamentary and presidential elections and there will be a different person in the Kremlin,” Putin said. “In these conditions, it is extremely important to preserve a stable path of development for our state and the continuity of decisions taken in the past few years.…”

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