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Putin tried to get Saddam to resign: Primakov

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to resign only days before the US launched its attack on Baghdad.

world Updated: Apr 11, 2003 20:36 IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to resign only days before the United States launched its attack on Baghdad, former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said on Friday.

Primakov, a Middle East specialist who now heads Russia's chamber of trade and industry, said he held a secret meeting with Saddam in Baghdad days before the March 20 launch of the war.

"I told him (Saddam) that I understand how serious this proposal is, and how it can change his life, but I also made it clear that this would be done to help Iraq, his native country," Interfax quoted Primakov as saying.

Primakov said that Saddam silently listened to the Russian proposal, and then asked Primakov to repeat it in the presence of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.

After that, Saddam "made several comments that were in no way related to our proposal," Primakov said.

"Russia and president Putin did everything possible, until the very last moment, to avoid this frightening war, because no one knows yet what consequences this conflict can still have."

Russian officials had earlier denied media reports that diplomats had been secretly working in Baghdad and trying to convince Saddam to flee into exile.

First Published: Apr 11, 2003 20:36 IST