Proof Found That Russia Backed Iraq, Papers Say
The St. Petersburg Times (AP, SPT), April 15, 2003
MOSCOW - Baghdad residents and Western journalists rummaging through a mansion that was once an office of the Iraqi secret police have turned up evidence that Russia provided Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime with wide-ranging assistance in the months leading up to the war, a U.S. and a British newpaper reported Sunday.
The San Francisco Chronicle said it found documents revealing a Moscow-based organization had been training Iraqi intelligence agents as recently as last September. The Telegraph said it obtained documents showing that among other things Russia shared intelligence with Hussein's regime on private conversations between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Western leaders.
Russia provided Iraq with lists of assassins available for "hits" in the West and details of arms deals with countries near Iraq, the British paper said. The two countries also signed agreements to share intelligence, help each other to obtain visas for agents to go to other countries and to exchange information on the activities of Osama bin Laden.
The Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, declined to comment Sunday on the report. Without mentioning The Telegraph , SVR spokesperson Boris Labusov said the agency does not comment on unsubstantiated reports in "boulevard publications," Interfax reported.
Interfax also quoted what it said was an expert close to the intelligence services, who suggested there was nothing sinister about intelligence ties between Russia and other countries. The unnamed expert said that the SVR established partnerships with foreign agencies over the past decade in part to exchange information in the struggles against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drugs and terrorism.
The newspapers said the documents showing links between Russia and Iraq were obtained from the heavily bombed Baghdad office of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police, which has been the target of looters and ordinary Iraqis searching for information about relatives who disappeared during Hussein's rule.
The documents, in Arabic, are mostly intelligence reports from anonymous agents and from the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow, The Telegraph said.
Blair is referred to in a report dated March 5, 2002, in which an Iraqi intelligence official explains that a Russian colleague passed him the details of a private conversation between Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, apparently in February 2002 in Rome. The document says that Blair "referred to the negative things decided by the United States over Baghdad." the newspaper reported.
The expert cited by Interfax, casting doubt on this report, said such meetings usually take place one-on-one and asked "Which of the two interlocutors in this case is the agent?" according to Interfax.
The list of assassins is referred to in a paper dated Nov. 27, 2000, in which an agent signing himself SAB says the Russians have passed him a detailed list of killers, The Telegraph said. The letter does not describe any assignments that the assassins might be given.
A letter from the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow shows that Russia kept Iraq informed about its arms deals with other countries in the Middle East, the paper said. Moscow also passed on information of Russians who could help Iraqi politicians obtain visas to go to many Western countries.