Russia Denies Leaking U.S. Intelligence To Iraq in 2003

Associated Press
Sunday, March 26, 2006

MOSCOW, March 25 -- Russia's foreign spy agency denied Saturday that Moscow had given former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein information on U.S. troop movements and plans during the invasion of Iraq, while analysts speculated that the Pentagon claim was tied to a growing rift between the West and the Kremlin.

A Pentagon report Friday cited two seized Iraqi documents as saying Russia obtained information from sources "inside the American Central Command" in Qatar and passed battlefield intelligence to Hussein through the former Russian ambassador in Baghdad.

The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service dismissed the claims.

"Similar baseless accusations concerning Russia's intelligence have been made more than once," Boris Labusov, an agency spokesman, said. "We don't consider it necessary to comment on such fabrications."

A leading Russian Internet news agency, Gazeta.ru, speculated that the Pentagon report was released to affect the U.N. Security Council debate on what to do about Iran's nuclear program, with Russia, along with China, resisting U.S. and European demands for a tough stand.

Sergei Oznobishchev, head of the Institute of Strategic Evaluations and Analyses, also tied the report to increasing U.S. distrust of Russia. "They are irritated by Russia's strengthening position in the international arena and its foreign policy course," Oznobishchev was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Pentagon report wasn't the first to raise questions about Russian assistance to Hussein's government at the time of the invasion in March 2003.

Gazeta.ru reported then that two retired Russian generals had visited Baghdad less than 10 days before the U.S.-led offensive and speculated that they were advising the Iraqi military. The report showed photographs of them receiving medals from the Iraqi defense minister.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a newspaper believed at the time to have well-placed contacts in Russia's military and intelligence spheres, reported in March 2003 that Russian intelligence agents were holding daily meetings with Iraqi officials.

The unclassified Pentagon report did not assess the value or accuracy of the information Hussein received or offer details on Russia's information pipeline.


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