MOSCOW - Russia has stressed its demand that United States provide for the security of the Russian Embassy in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in the latest sally in a dispute over the issue.
During a meeting Monday that focused on other matters, Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Safonov told U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow that the embassy must be protected, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"The Russian side particularly underlined the need for the provision of security for the Russian diplomatic mission in Baghdad in accordance with international legal norms and commonly accepted diplomatic practice," the statement said.
It was the second Foreign Ministry statement to raise the issue since the Interfax news agency quoted Vershbow as saying in an interview that Washington does not view the Russian Embassy in Iraq as a diplomatic mission and cannot accept responsibility for the staff's safety.
Vershbow said the United States considers it unwise for other countries to set up diplomatic missions in Iraq now because there is no Iraqi government.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Saturday calling that position "far from irreproachable" and saying that because "the current occupation of Iraq does not influence the existence of Iraq as a state, its diplomatic relations with Russia continue."
Russia vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq and accused the United States of endangering its Baghdad embassy with bombings. The Russian Ambassador to Iraq, Vladimir Titorenko, accused U.S. forces of deliberately firing on his convoy as it was leaving Baghdad during the war.
However, the two countries have tried to patch up relations in the wake of the U.S.-led war.
On Tuesday, Interfax quoted Vershbow as saying that the United States does not intend to obstruct the interests of Russian companies in Iraq and will let the future Iraqi government decide what to do about oil contracts signed by Russian companies with the previous regime.