Russia warns against outside influence in Saddam trial, verdict

Russian pundits and politicians said Sunday that the verdict against Saddam Hussein was engineered to influence the U.S. midterm elections this week, while the Foreign Ministry issued a more cautious official comment warning against outside influence in his trial.

"We believe that the trial of a citizen of any country, whatever post he one held, is an internal matter of that state and must be conducted and concluded without prompting from outside," the statement quoted ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying.

Kamynin did not name the United States or any other nation and stopped short of even stating that the trial was influenced from outside.

A well-known Kremlin-connected political analyst, Vyacheslav Nikonov, also suggested the timing was no coincidence.

"The Iraq issue will be central in the elections and (the verdict) will be the Bush camp's last argument that the war ... has not been a wasteful effort and that the main culprit will be punished," the Interfax news agency quoted Nikonov as saying.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said that "Hussein was tried by occupation authorities, not by an Iraqi court," and called the verdict an example of

the United States "settling scores with those who did not want to obey the White House," Interfax reported.

"This verdict raises a mass of questions, the first and most serious of which is, "Who benefits?'" Mikhail Margelov, head of the international affairs committee in the upper parliament house, said on state-run Channel One television.

Russian politicians also warned that that the verdict would likely further destabilize Iraq.

Kamynin suggested the government shared that assessment, saying that "it is particularly important to avoid anything that could additionally split Iraqi society."

[Source: Associated Press, Moscow, 05Nov06]

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