Rice asks Russia to probe leak of US invasion plans

Date: 03-28-06

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to investigate allegations that Russia leaked US' Iraq invasion plans to Saddam Hussein, a spokesman said.

A US military report released last Friday said documents had been found in Iraq which indicated Russia gave the Iraqi leader advance notice of US invasion plans in 2003. Russia has already strongly denied the report.

Rice asked Lavrov "to look into this question about documents to

the Iraqis and conduct a serious investigation," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said.

"She said it was important," he added.

Dan Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, spoke to the Russian ambassador to Washington on Monday and asked that Moscow look into the allegations, the State Department said.

Rice said Sunday that the US administration "would take very seriously any suggestion that this may have been done, maybe to the detriment of American forces."

In Moscow on Tuesday, Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov dismissed the again. "That is total nonsense. We have not passed on any information," he told reporters.

Lavrov said in Moscow on Monday that the allegations were politically motivated.

"The way this was done suggests that there is a political motive here and that this could be connected with the situation in Iraq," Lavrov said.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was questioned about the claims at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday but said he had not been alerted to the captured Iraqi documents and did not know whether they were accurate.

"It certainly would be something that one would look into," he said.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday that no investigation is being opened into the possibility that Moscow obtained intelligence from US military command sources on American military movements as the invasion was being launched.

"If it should be (looked into), it will," Rumsfeld said.

"I'd have to go back and read it carefully and see what credence one ought to give to it, and see what we may have discovered through other channels, and then make a decision," he said.

One document quoted in the US report said the Russians passed on information collected from sources in the US Central Command in Doha, Qatar.

The United States launched air strikes against Baghdad on March 20, 2003. The intelligence described US plans to move troops up to Baghdad from the south through the Euphrates River valley, bypassing main cities on the way.

The dispute comes at a time when Washington and Moscow are at loggerheads over various international issues.

The Russians are opposing US-led moves to seek a strong UN resolution against Iran for its suspected efforts to develop a nuclear bomb.

The two countries also differ on their approach to the new Palestinian government formed by the militant group Hamas and to the authoritarian regime in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.


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