Towards the end of the week French and German leaders Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder are to arrive in St. Petersburg at an invitation of their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The negotiations are to focus on the Iraqi issue and post-war reconstruction in the republic.
Since the Iraqi issue was first addressed Russia, Germany and France had pronounced strongly for the crisis to be settled under UN resolutions. With the war launched, Vladimir Putin, Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac urged for the issue to be brought back to the United Nations.
With the war drawing to a close, Iraq's political and economic future is on the agenda. Will Russia, France and Germany have their share in the republic's post-war reconstruction?
The United States have already unveiled their vision of Iraq's future. An Interim Iraqi Administration (IIA) will be set up, made up mostly of former US ambassadors to Arab countries. British representatives and members of the Iraqi opposition will be invited to join in. As the White House sees it, the new administration will tackle post-war reconstruction in the republic.
Great Britain, the US staunchest ally, demands UN involvement in the settlement.
The United States might as well agree to that. However, the United Nations is highly unlikely to receive contracts to restore and exploit oil fields, processing industry and major infrastructure facilities. The international organisation is more likely to focus on humanitarian issues, such as the return of refugees, rebuilding health care and the rest of the vital infrastructure.
However, the reconstruction is at the surface. Many specialists speak of new challenges, some of which might prove unexpected to those who launched the campaign. For instance, a number of questioned RIA Novosti experts believe that the Iraqi war will trigger proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The US-proclaimed "axis of evil" members are very unlikely to wait for their turn to come.
There are other challenges as well, the most probable is the radicalisation of the Arab regimes, which might lead to an outbreak of terrorism in the region.
With anti-American feeling spreading, US traditional Middle East partners, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan might soon lose interest in the White House. Terrorist organisations have already called the Iraqi war an assault on the Muslim civilisation. Experts say the worst outcome is not terrorist attacks in themselves, but increased funding for terrorism and greater number of young recruits.
According to Russian military officials, this "walk across Iraq Desert" has already cost coalition forces 300 casualties, and that is without actual street fighting. So, the coalition's heavy casualties might still lie ahead.
Many Americans say that when the number of casualties passes over 1,000, if it does, the Bush-friendly American public might turn on their President. It happened during the Vietnam War.
It is all gloom and doom for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well. A split in the Labour Government was obvious before the war. So if now the US decides to leave Britain without its piece of pie in post-war Iraq, Blair and his party might be in for trouble.
The Iraqi war has put to test not only Baghdad's architecture, US tanks and soldiers, but the entire system of international relations, including Russian-American ties. The recent visit to Moscow by Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice revealed Washington's concern over cooling bilateral relations with Russia. Both Moscow and Washington realise how important these relations are and intend to do their best to maintain their development, the Kremlin told RIA Novosti.
Russia's stand on Iraq has been clear-cut and unswerving from the start. Moscow did not try to protect Saddam Hussein, but rather to keep Britain and the United States from making unnecessary mistakes.
Of course, joint Russian-US efforts can prove more effective in preventing weapons proliferation and combating global terrorism. If the Iraqi issue is brought back to the United Nations as soon as possible, coalition forces might be spared unnecessary casualties and will share the responsibility for the region with the rest of the international community. Meanwhile Bush and Blair may save the political careers.
An unidentified man wielding a knife attacked civilians in the Church of Notre Dame in the French city of Nice. Three people were killed, several others were hospitalised with injuries.One of the victims was beheaded