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Rice asks Russia to probe Pentagon Iraq allegation

March 28, 2006

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice asked Russia on Tuesday to investigate Pentagon assertions
that Moscow gave intelligence to Iraq on U.S. military
movements shortly after the 2003 invasion.

Russia’s defense minister called the accusations “complete
rubbish,” and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he
did not know whether the assertions made in a Pentagon report,
released on Friday by the military’s Joint Forces Command, were
true.

Rice spoke by telephone to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov on Tuesday.

“I have talked with the Russian foreign minister and asked
him to look into this, and to take it very, very seriously. We
take seriously any implication that someone might have been
passing information that endangered the operation at the outset
of the war,” Rice told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“We will look for an answer back from the Russian
government once, hopefully, they have had a chance to look into
it,” said Rice, adding that she had not wanted to come to any
conclusions before speaking to the Russians.

At a Pentagon briefing, Rumsfeld was asked whether he knew
the report’s assertions, based on captured Iraqi government
documents, to be true.

“No, I don’t,” Rumsfeld said. “It’s something that —
obviously, it merits looking into.”

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military’s
Joint Chiefs of Staff, added, “We still don’t know whether or
not the (document) translation itself is 100 percent accurate.
We don’t know if this is real information or disinformation.”

MEMO TO SADDAM

The report cited an April 2, 2003, document from the Iraqi
minister of foreign affairs to President Saddam Hussein as
stating the Russian ambassador to Baghdad had given strategic
intelligence on U.S. plans and military movements to Saddam’s
government.

Another Iraqi document cited in the report, dated March 24,
2003, referred to Russian sources inside the U.S. military’s
Central Command headquarters in Qatar. The report’s author,
Kevin Woods, said on Friday there was no reason to doubt the
documents.

Rumsfeld said that “I haven’t seen the specific reference
in the report” and did not recall anyone telling him about the
Russia assertions when he was briefed on the report by staff.

“But the idea that we’re supposed to know what’s going to
be in every single document or report that comes out of this
department is obviously — it doesn’t quite appreciate the
hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of reports that are put
out,” Rumsfeld said.

Russia, which opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion,
dismissed the Pentagon report.

“I believe this is a complete rubbish,” Russian Defense
Minister Sergei Ivanov told a news conference in Russia,
speaking in English as he answered a question about the report.
“We have never supplied anyone with information.”

Rumsfeld said the U.S. government was in the process of
releasing many prewar Iraqi government documents, and said some
would turn out to be accurate, and some not.

Officials have said Central Command has not launched an
investigation into whether the Russians had sources inside the
command responsible for U.S. military operations in Iraq.
Rumsfeld said he had not decided whether such an investigation
was needed.

(Additional reporting by Will Dunham)


Source: reuters



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