MOSCOW, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Russia's foreign minister Wednesday warned the United States not to take military action against Iran.
"The Russian foreign minister said Wednesday U.S.-led multinational foreign forces in Iraq must not conduct military operations outside the country, including against Iran," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"The multinational force in Iraq should abide strictly by the UN Security Council's mandate, which does not provide for any operations outside the country," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Lebanese magazine Al-Watan Al-Arabi in an interview.
"The escalation of the conflict and its possible spread beyond the Iraqi borders will inevitably result in catastrophic consequences and not for the Middle East alone," Lavrov said according to the report. "I believe Washington understands this."
Lavrov told Al-Watan Al-Arabi that a timetable needed to be drawn up for the coordinated and gradual evacuation of all foreign military forces from Iraq. He said that was essential to bring stability to the troubled Middle eastern nation.
"But at the same time we believe that U.S. Army detachments and their coalition allies should not leave Iraq tomorrow," Lavrov said.
Lavrov also said that Iraq's own police, army and other security forces needed to be increased in size and strength to prepare for the pull out of U.S. and other forces.
"The long-standing confrontation between the U.S. and Iran deteriorated further Jan. 11 when American servicemen burst into Iran's mission in Erbil (Kurdistan) and detained five officials. American troops disarmed guards and confiscated computers and documents without providing any explanation," RIA Novosti noted.
The Russian news agency also noted that "earlier this month the United States accused Iran of backing the insurgency and unrest in Iraq, and suspects the Islamic Republic of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program."