U.S. to ask Russia about Iraqi espionage claims, says Rice

March 27, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the United States would seek clarification from Russia about an American military report that it had helped pass information to Iraq before the 2003 invasion, but she declined to make any specific allegations.

"I don't have any reason to doubt or confirm the report at this point," Rice said on Fox News Sunday. "I do think we have to look at the documents and look very carefully."

She added that the administration would "take very seriously any suggestion that a foreign government may have passed information to the Iraqis" before the invasion and that "we will raise it with the Russian government." She said she hoped that "the Russian government would take seriously any such charges."

A military report released Friday said that Iraqi documents described a Russian spy operation aimed at the U.S. Central Command and that information on American war plans was passed to Iraq through the Russian ambassador in Baghdad.

On Saturday, Russian intelligence services denied the claims.

On Fox News Sunday and on the NBC program Meet the Press, Rice said it would be too early to jump to the conclusion that if information had been passed on to Saddam Hussein's government, it was done at Moscow's direction.

The study said that some information Iraq had obtained was false. Rice said she did not know whether any leaked information might have been part of a "disinformation" campaign.

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