|Russia Gave U.S. Intel on Iraq, Putin Says
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 19, 2004
ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday
his government warned Washington that Saddam Hussein's regime was
preparing attacks in the United States and its interests abroad -- an
assertion that appears to bolster President Bush's contention that Iraq
was a threat.
Putin emphasized that the intelligence didn't cause Russia to waver from
its firm opposition to the U.S.-led war last year, but his statement was
the second this month in which he has offered at least some support for
Bush on Iraq.
``After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation
in Iraq, the Russian special services ... received information that
officials from Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist attacks in the
United States and outside it against the U.S. military and other
interests,'' Putin said.
``Despite that information ... Russia's position on Iraq remains
unchanged,'' he said in the Kazakh capital, Astana, after regional
economic and security summits. He said Russia didn't have any
information that Saddam's regime had actually been behind any terrorist
``It's one thing to have information that Saddam's regime is preparing
terrorist attacks, (but) we didn't have information that it was involved
in any known terrorist attacks,'' he said.
Putin didn't elaborate on any details of the alleged plots or mention
whether they were tied to al-Qaida. He said Bush had personally thanked
one of the leaders of Russia's intelligence agencies for the information
but that he couldn't comment on how critical it was in the U.S. decision
to invade Iraq.
In Washington, a U.S. official said Putin's information did not add to
what the United States already knew about Saddam's intentions.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Putin's tip
didn't give a time or place for a possible attack.
Bush alleged Thursday that Saddam had ``numerous contacts'' with
al-Qaida and said Iraqi agents had met with the terror network's leader,
Osama bin Laden, in Sudan.
Saddam ``was a threat because he had terrorist connections -- not only
al-Qaida connections, but other connections to terrorist
organizations,'' Bush said.
However, a commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported this
week that while there were contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq, they did
not appear to have produced ``a collaborative relationship.''
Also Thursday, a top Russian diplomat called for international
inspectors to resolve conclusively the question of whether Iraq had any
weapons of mass destruction.
``This problem must be resolved ... because to a great extent it became
the pretext for the start of the war against Iraq,'' the Interfax news
agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov as saying. He said
such a finding would allow the U.N. Security Council to ``finally close
the dossier on Iraqi weapons.''
In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Putin sharply rebuked the United
States for going to war despite opposition within the U.N. Security
Council and said the threat posed to international security by the war
was greater than that posed by Saddam.
But Putin's relationship with Bush is warm by the accounts of both
leaders, and last week he said he has no patience for those who
criticize Bush on Iraq.
``I don't pay attention to such publications,'' Putin said of media
criticism of Bush at the end of the Group of Eight summit in the United
States, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Putin said opponents who criticize Bush on Iraq ``don't have any kind of
moral right. ... They conducted exactly the same kind of policy in
Russia vehemently opposed the NATO bombing attacks on Yugoslavia in
1999, which the United States pushed for under President Clinton.